The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

My favorite stories are the ones that take terrible events or crimes and look at it from a different perspective. It makes one think and connect more to the various players both in the forefront and in the background of the incident. I like these kinds of novels because they make my realize my own prejudices and they force me to open my eyes to the bigger picture. That’s the main reason I was attracted to this novel.

George Woodbury is a much-loved teacher, husband, and father. So it comes as a shock when he is arrested for sexual impropriety at the very school he teaches at. His wife, Joan, is forced into a difficult situation, as the community she loves turns against her. Their daughter, Sadie, who was once a popular over-achiever is now reduced to a social pariah. Their son, Andrew, comes into town to help his father’s defense, but finds painful memories from his teen years are still holding him back. As the family tries to keep themselves together during this difficult time, the question at the back of all of their minds is: did he do it?

While this novel wasn’t perfect, I must say that I really enjoyed it. The story switches into different perspectives throughout the novel with the exception of George, which I found really intriguing. The novel did quite a good job in portraying the difficulties that the family of the accused faces before and after a terrible scandal. The author really showed how people can go from being friends to enemies in the blink of an eye, and how hard it can be for a family to support someone that they love, even while facing the possibility that their loved one is guilty of committing an atrocious crime. In the beginning, I was more interested in finding out whether George was guilty or not but as the story progressed, I found myself empathizing with the members of his family – especially Joan. I think that while Andrew and Sadie were hard to empathize with, Joan was depicted quite nicely as the pillar of support. Her character kept me intrigued and it was with her that I felt the most connected. I wish the author had spent more time developing Sadie and Andrew, since they mostly came off as selfish and sometimes a little stupid. The story does skip around in terms of the time frame but it was necessary; it kept the pace brisk and kept me interested. While the author may not have gotten every legal aspect correct, she did shed light on the struggles that the victims themselves face during a court trial. Being painted as a liar or as someone who has done something to deserve it…. these are terrible accusations especially when the victims are pressing charges regarding a sexual encounter but these accusations really do occur in the real world; the media and even some locals can go against the victims, causing justice to not be served. It was something that the author really honed in on and I’m glad she did because I never really considered this issue before. The ending made me really sad. It highlighted the tragedy that occurs in the justice system and showed how no one really wins. Overall, this novel has a high-impact plot that will make you see things from various different perspectives. I think that the plot and the important issues that are raised by the author are strong enough to overpower the negatives, so this is a novel that I would definitely recommend!

Happy reading ~

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The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

December is my favorite month when it comes to reading. Because I know that the new year (and new books!) will be upon me shortly, I become frantic and try to get through my ever-growing pile of books to read and review. December gives me the motivation I need to sit and read book after book, and write review after review, until I’m left with a much more manageable book list that I can continue to work on in the new year. I desperately wanted to finish this book before January, and I was able to get through it in a mere 3 hours!

Zoe is a child genius, a musical prodigy – the perfect daughter. But a party gone wrong led to the death of three teenagers – and Zoe was the one to take the blame. She faced the courts, served her time. And now she’s free. Her mother remarried and now Zoe has a stepfather and stepbrother in her life, along with a half-sister. As Zoe Maisey, life should go back to normal again. But on the night when Zoe decides to give a piano performance, there is a disruption that threatens to bring her past back to the forefront. By midnight, Zoe’s mother is dead. Who killed Zoe’s mother and why? And what will happen now to this “perfect” family?

One of the things I liked about this novel was how it was split into two parts and went back and forth between different character perspectives as well as between different points in time. This ensured that the reader was attentive; I like to be kept on my toes because it makes me work that much harder to make connections – and sometimes, a challenge is a good thing!

While I enjoyed reading from the perspective of different characters and found the events leading up to the murder interesting, I didn’t really find Zoe to be a well-developed character. For one thing, the whole genius aspect had no purpose so it didn’t really even need to be included in the story. I thought that it was mentioned because it would lead to something somewhere but it didn’t, so that was a bit of a disappointment. Her character just made me sad but I couldn’t connect with her or feel anything other than marginal pity. I feel like she could have been a lot more complex, especially in showing her emotions regarding her mother’s death.

I also found the character of the solicitor to be quite unnecessary. I thought that the author had included him and his perspective for a purpose but he pretty much did nothing throughout the whole novel and had his own mini sidestory going on that I didn’t really care about. I pretty much hate when authors include things that have no bearing or purpose so the solicitor was definitely a disappointing character for me.

While the premise was interesting, and the whodunit aspect had me hyped, finding out what happened and the way that it resolved itself was a bit lacking in the wow factor, so I didn’t get that thrill that I was hoping for.

Overall, this is a well-written novel that incorporated many different perspectives and timelines. However, it was lackluster in terms of creating complex characters, and did not deliver on the thrill factor as strongly as I had hoped. Still a decent read, and worth giving a shot!

Happy reading ~