Review: The Good Girl; Mary Kubica

I liked it- but I didn’t love it (3.5 stars)

Source- review copy

Published by Harlequin MIRA July 2014

I read the Kindle edition, the hardcover is 352 pages

This is a book that has been generating a lot of hype lately.  The vast majority of reviews I’ve read for it have generally been really positive; it is being cited as the next ‘Gone Girl’ and it seems to be THE book to read this summer.  So, needless to say I went into this book with a sense of immense anticipation. Maybe that was my mistake- that I perhaps expected too much? Suffice to say that I liked this book enough, but I definitely didn’t love it. I will try and keep this review as spoiler-free as possible too- the less known about it going in, I think, the better!

The daughter of a prominent judge and his socialite wife, Mia Dennett rebels against her restrictive childhood, flouting her father’s wishes for her to enter the legal profession, becoming an art teacher at an inner city Chicago high school instead. She feels isolated from her family and a big disappointment, particularly in comparison to her older sister Grace.

One evening Mia unwisely leaves a bar with an enigmatic stranger. What could have merely been a  no-strings one night stand however soon becomes her very worst nightmare…

So, I actually found The Good Girl somewhat frustrating at its start; nothing to do with the writing style or its multiple narrators, which is what I had been expecting to bug me if anything would, but merely because it felt like it took ages to really get into the nitty-gritty of the story. For me, this was a slow-burning read.  Once events unfolded however and you learned Mia’s fate then the tension ratcheted up a notch and I found myself genuinely interested in where things would go from that point on. You already know later events which are elaborated at the start of the story; you just need to understand what brought them to this point and what has occurred in-between. The author does a really good job in filling in the blanks and evoking feelings of suspense.  The circumstances arising in The Good Girl are every parent’s biggest fear and I think they were depicted very well.

Character-wise though, I just didn’t connect with any of the main protagonists which is always something of a problem. This could be because the narrative P.O.V changes around a lot or it could just be because I found them genuinely a bit bland. Mia’s mother Eve is a bit of a stereotypical trophy wife who is unable to stand up to her husband or form her own opinions. Detective Gabe- a cop sent to help the Dennett family- was appealing at first but then seemed to succumb to Eve’s ‘charms’ and lose his own professional identity and Mia’s father James seemed to be written to be the most abhorrent kind of dad (and human being) imaginable. Mia herself… I’m still figuring her out! The most redeeming character in there was the bad guy, which says quite a lot about the story I think- he was a pretty complex dude and had the most depth to him.

The writing in the book was really engaging however, descriptive without being flowery and the dialogue not too overdone. After a somewhat meandering beginning,  I found myself easily able to envisage settings and scenarios the author described.

Without giving away any major plot spoilers, there were a couple of twists in the storyline which were pretty well executed, but unfortunately I did see them coming.  There had to be ‘something’ in there to ensure this book was a bit more than just your typical run of the mill thriller and I expected twists and some strange things to happen throughout. The final chapters did however leave my feelings about Mia even more conflicted- if that was possible, though they added new dimension to the storyline and made me consider going back and re-reading certain aspects which can only be a good thing.

For me, I don’t really ‘get’ all of the comparisons to ‘Gone Girl’ either (other than the word ‘Girl’ being incorporated in its title, that is!). Yes, it’s a psychological-thriller novel as well. The narrative viewpoint also switches around but that is literally about it. The premise is pretty different, the writing style is also very different and this book needs fairly judging on its own merits.  If I was the author I might feel pretty irked that my novel was continually being compared to someone else’s’ all the time.

I was torn between giving this book three stars or three and a half and eventually went for the latter- on entertainment value alone it is worth the read; after a slow start it avidly held my attention throughout and I would certainly read more from the author in future. Psychological thriller fans are sure to appreciate this intriguing début.

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