With comparisons to The Girl Before and Anatomy Of A Scandal, I fully expected Juliette, the first-person protagonist of The Perfect Girlfriend, to turn out to be an unreliable narrator. It’s obvious there is a tragedy in her past when the book opens with the accidental drowning death of her young brother, but the extent to which her past defines her present takes almost the whole book to become truly apparent.
We first meet the adult Juliette as she is in the final stages of training for her new job as a flight attendant. It isn’t long before we discover Juliette has made a career change (and a name change) deliberately to put herself in the path of Nate, her ex-boyfriend with whom she is still deeply obsessed. Slowly, her plan to win Nate back unfolds, and though she has a few overly obsessive tics, like letting herself into his apartment when he is away, it’s quite easy to relate to her desperate desire to win back the man she loves.
The thing is, Juliette isn’t an unreliable narrator at all. She doesn’t necessarily reveal everything immediately, but she hides nothing from the reader, letting us in on all her dark little secrets and the lies she tells to everyone else around her. The reader is the one who sees the whole truth, the good, the bad and the ugly.
It’s easy to see where Juliette goes wrong - throughout the story, several opportunities present themselves for her to change her path and find a more fulfilling life, but it never even occurs to her to take them, and once her full backstory is revealed, I could see that the choices she made were actually inevitable. In her situation, any one of us might do the same thing.
I have to wonder if the author plans a sequel; the ending is ambiguous enough, with enough plot threads left untied, that it’s quite possible. If not, I guess I’ll forever be wondering just how high Juliette can build her house of cards before everything comes tumbling down.
Five stars for a fantastic debut novel, filled with authentic detail and an anti-heroine you’ll understand even while you want to strangle her.
The Perfect Girlfriend is currently available in ebook and hardcopy form outside North America. It is expected to be released in the US and Canada in late 2018 (though I did find a link on Google Play...)
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.