The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
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Thank you to Allen & Unwin for giving me this book!
Ahh, Sara Shepard - I have such mixed feelings about her writing, in general. On one hand, 'The Perfectionists' had an interesting enough premise to keep me engaged. On the other hand, it follows Shepard's same standard plot line that she uses in all her novels - pretty girls with dark secrets (and a murder to boot).
One thing I loved about 'The Perfectionists' was the characterisation. Shepard made me feel like I knew the girls personally, which was quite a feat considering both how short the book is, and how many POVs were utilised. Yes, they all ascribed to some fairly cliche stereotypes (popular girl, athlete etc.), but I felt I understood the characters and their intentions more as the book progressed. Their voices were distinct, and I knew who was narrating each chapter almost straight away. To me, good characterisation is especially critical to writing a captivating contemporary novel, as grand settings and unique worlds are not able to 'make up' for less-developed characters.
Despite the quality characterisation, this novel's plot left a lot to be desired. Firstly, it seemed as though 'The Perfectionists' was merely a setup for the following book/s. Shepard introduces the characters, the setting, and the premise, but we do not really learn anything about the actual mystery. There are a few hints scattered throughout, sure, but nothing in the way of legitimate plot progression - which was disappointing. Some parts of the plot were downright unbelievable! However, knowing Shepard, these will likely be explained in later book/s, so I should not balk too much - (SPOILER: like how the counsellor mentioned that he knew Parker's story from Julie. Ever heard of patient confidentiality?!)[like how the counsellor mentioned that he knew Parker's story from Julie. Ever heard of patient confidentiality?! (hide spoiler)]
'The Perfectionists' is a tricky book to review, because most of its positives are also negatives. For example, how short it is - this was great, because I was basically able to read the whole thing in a two hour flight. It was also annoying, because of the limited plot progression and potential for more in-depth characterisation. The multiple POVs were great because we got to understand each of the girl's motivations and desires, but this also limited the story because there was more time spent on each of their personal thoughts than on the plot. I settled on 3.5 stars because I enjoyed reading 'The Perfectionists' and it had brilliant characterisation, but I had too many problems with it to give this book 4 stars.
Overall, this was a quick read with a fairly cookie cutter plot, but it had some genuinely intriguing characters. I would recommend it to someone who just wants to switch off for a few hours, and read something fast and light.