Review: “The Perfect Girl” by Gilly MacMillan

It’s a tale as old as time – someone hiding a dark secret and an incident happening that reveals their chequered past. Yet for Zoe, the heroine of our tale, this is only the beginning of a night that will leave her family changed forever. Gilly MacMillan takes this trope and turns it on its head, leaving us knowing that everyone has their dirty little secrets and that life is truly (to paraphrase Sir Walter Scott) a very tangled web.


Maria has the perfect suburban life. A blended family, sure, but with two pianist prodigy children and another adorable baby daughter with her new husband, she’s leading a picture-perfect life. What no one knows is that her elder daughter, Zoe, has done time in juvenile detention for a drink-driving incident in which she killed three other teens. On a night where they stage her comeback concert in a local church, the father of one of the victims exposes her past misdeeds. And in the morning? Maria is found dead.

Believe it or not… this is not a spoiler. The story that MacMillan has written is so much more than the events that start it off. And even though the story is a thriller and takes twists and turns to get to the inevitable reveal of the killer, this is truly only half the story. MacMillan has an incisive look at the reality of human nature; that most of us aren’t wholly good or wholly evil. Her timely reveals of people’s true character keep the reader on their toes – I went from detesting Richard, the alcoholic uncle, to feeling that he was one of the quiet heroes of the piece.

In a society of Pinterest and Instagram-perfection, this story is more relevant than ever. Zoe continually refers to her situation as her Second Chance family and the pressure on leading that idyllic life is intense for ALL involved. MacMillan keeps the story tripping along quickly, revealing just that little more about each character, seeing behind the facade to what really lies beneath.

While this novel is a thriller and deals with drink-driving and death, there are no hideously graphic scenes. This is a great gateway book to the thriller genre and one I wouldn’t be too concerned about giving to a teen to entice them into reading. It would also appeal to those people fascinated by the human condition – if you love to people-watch, you will love this book. Happy reading!

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