The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard | Rating: ★★★★☆
It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of Sara Shepard and have been for years. Devouring The Lying Game and Pretty Little Liars series has been a bit of an addiction for me since my teens; so it’s no surprise how thrilled I was when I heard about The Perfectionists, Sara’s latest dive into young adult suspense and glamour.
Not only is the cover gorgeous, the plot shows promise in the same way that all her books do. Although Sara’s writing isn’t the best in all the land, she makes reading fun and each story oozes scandal, luxury, death and mystery. It’s easy to see why her work is adapted frequently and why she dominates her portion of the genre.
Sara’s mind is filled with ideas, this much we know. She just knows what she’s doing to make readers crawl back. But while The Perfectionists was a fun, thrill filled read that shined bright with dark air and mystery, it wasn’t her best work. I keep noting that some of the characters felt less alive than her previous works.
This isn’t to say that The Perfectionists was boring or a chore to read. It’s fast and fun and very delicious in its own right; it just had moments where you felt very unattached to some of the characters.
Almost like they weren’t quite fleshed out beyond a brief summary of interests and physical appearances. It was odd.
Ava, Caitlin, Mac, Parker and Julie were all entertaining in their own rights and it was easy to get wrap up in their drama, yet more often than not I found myself feeling rather underwhelmed by their plots and characteristics. Mostly, they were forgettable.
That being said, the mystery of it all was the novels saving grace. It was delicious watching these girls jokingly discuss who they’d want dead in their school. It set the stage for a world of danger. These sorts of discussions aren’t the greatest thing to have but let’s admit it right here, right now: in high school you don’t really think.
And to these five girls, this discussion was a joke to vent their frustrations of Nolan and others in their town of Beacon Heights. It was a starting point for each of them when it came down to their prank on Nolan. But things quickly go wrong in their little game and to their horror, Nolan is found dead after their prank and very freakishly his murder was done in exactly the way girls jokingly planned.
Is it possible that someone overheard their conversation? Or is it possible that one of the girls themselves had something to do with it? Or is it merely a coincidence? Nolan was that boy after all–popular, cruel–so really it isn’t that far fetched that someone else could have done it.
Quickly, these girls become the main suspects in the murder investigation. Ava was the last of the girls to be seen with him alive and things are caving in on all of them. And when one their creepy, inappropriate teachers ends up dead the girls look all the more guilty.
Other side plots include:
Caitlin’s backstory of how her younger brother was bullied at the hand of Nolan, he eventually killed himself at such a young age. She struggles with her feelings for her longtime boyfriend Josh and finds herself attracted to Jeremy, his brother, who is much better suited for her.
Ava’s reputation was ruined long ago by Nolan claiming she’d slept with her teachers and her step-mother is verbally abusive and often cruel. Her father doesn’t notice this. Ava also gains unwanted attention from Mr. Granger, who is known for his inappropriate relationships with his students.
It is also revealed that Nolan had blackmailed Mr. Granger as well; causing the girls to wonder… did Mr. Granger kill Nolan? It was, after all, his class where they had their conversation… But when Mr. Granger winds up dead, after the girls were at his house no less, and Ava’s boyfriend winds up in custody, the girls are certain all these deaths are no a coincidence.
Somebody is trying to set them up, but who?
Back to our girls…
Julie and Parker are best friends and always together. They are very, very dependent on one another. Their friendship is incredibly odd seeing as Parker used to be The It-Girl in the area and now is invisible to her peers. Julie is kind, popular and Parker is a bit darker and prefers to remain anonymous now. Parker was drugged by Nolan the night she had an accident, and this serves as a point of tension for both girls.
The common ground is that both girls have struggled with a tough home life. And while Parker’s story takes the back burner (her father used to beat her and nearly ended her life), Julie’s is front and center. Both girls see a therapist, but is he all he seems?
Does he want to help them or is he a predator?
Back to their home lives: Julie’s mother is a hoarder to the worst degree and it’s a wonder to see how clean and organized Julie is compared to her. Because of her mother’s illness, Julie never has anyone over–except for Parker, who stays with her frequently.
This becomes a problem when Julie’s lookalike/practically stalker Ashley comes across this information and decides to use it against Julie. And just when Julie thinks she’s getting comfortable with the a very attractive and fun boy, Carson, things get thrown into jeopardy.
And lastly, there’s Mackenzie. Mac is a promising musician who is constantly feuding and competing with her so-called-best-friend. Nolan gave her trouble by pursuing her romantically and convincing her for nudes only to find he did this on a beat and publicly humiliated her afterwards.
Mac just so happens to have a crush on her best friends boyfriend, Blake, and also has a fling with him. But when it’s revealed that her best friend, Claire, was setting Mac up for failure at a Julliard audition, things come to an abrupt end.
Mac handles it all somewhat gracefully, though, and while she is REALLY hurt it’s still a solid plot.
It’s because of their competitive nature that Claire’s name wound up on the list of who the girls would kill if they could. Of course, she doesn’t mean this. It’s simply a case of frenemies and frustration.
Overall, The Perfectionists captures all the things that Sara Shepard is known for and will leave readers on the edge of their seats as they try and put pieces of the puzzle together to solve the mystery. She’ll toy with your emotions and I can’t wait to see what twists she pulls out in the next installment.
But for now, the novel will leave you with questions. Who is the killer? Who’s next to die? Is someone setting these girls up? Or is it one of the girls themselves?
In a town like Beacon Heights, where perfection is everything, one thing is certain: the killer is only getting started and stakes are high for a certain five girls.