Butterfly In The Dark

The Perfect Girl
Gilly MacMillan
Hachette Australia
March 2016

It’s easy to forget—considering there are generations that have grown to adulthood knowing no different—that the internet of things is still new to humanity. Certainly in terms of laws and regulations, the internet is still something of a frontier with the frontier mentality of “anything goes”. Because what are the consequences of misbehaving, really?

Only now, in the last few years are we starting to get the germ of a more coordinated effort to “stop online bullying”. So far it appears to be all talk and very little real life action. But, as with most seemingly lawless places, the law, justice, call it what you will, is taken into the hands of the citizens of the internet themselves. Rightly or wrongly (mostly wrongly) the internet can tear down and destroy the real life of an individual in the blink of an eye. Whether you’re a dentist who shoots lions for fun, a convicted rapist with too short a sentence, or just someone who forgot sarcasm doesn’t work online unless you /s, the internet will reap its own justice if it feels justice has not been done.

I had a point… oh yes, book segue. Smooth, Jamie, smooth.

Zoe is your typical garden-variety teenage genius piano player. She and her mother, Maria, are settling into their new lives in Bristol, away from the trauma of the past. Zoe was the poor kid at a school full of privileged kids. This is a recipe for some good old fashioned bullying, both online and off. After accidentally causing the deaths of three other bright young sparks and serving her time in juvie, Zoe and her mother move away to start their Second Chance Life.

Chris Maisey is like a dream come true for Maria. He’s rich, handsome, and the father of teenage genius piano playing son, Lucas. If only Zoe and her mother can keep the ghosts of the past at bay, they have a chance at happiness with their new family. So desperate is she to shed their past, the once-fiery Maria now acts the perfect meek wife for Chris, with his strict rules and meticulous tidiness.

When Zoe and Lucas perform a piano recital in a local church, the father of one of the teens Zoe killed bursts in to interrupt in protest. The jig seems to be up for Zoe and Maria. From here begin a strange series of twists and turns, and by midnight Zoe’s mother is dead.

The Perfect Girl is an entertaining fast-paced thriller. The story’s main voices come from Zoe, her aunt Tessa, and her previous solicitor, Sam.

The voice of Zoe’s chapters is that of a teenage girl, through and through. We hear her fears and her desires in a down-to-earth style. Zoe’s voice is countered by those of her aunt Tessa, through who we see more of Maria’s life before and after Zoe’s accident, and of Sam, Zoe’s previous solicitor in whom she places her trust.

With online abuse rife, the epidemic of domestic violence, and the silencing of women and girls, The Perfect Girl hits notes that harmonise with modern life as we know it.

About Jamie Ashbird

Jamie Ashbird was born from an egg on a mountain top. At least that's what she keeps telling people. In fact she was born, quite boringly, from a uterus and was raised in Melbourne. It is here, in her native habitat, that she roams about watching the world go by and quietly judging people. She is also a writer... ahem, apologies, typo... she is almost a writer but wastes too much of her time watching other people play video games on YouTube.
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