The Perfectionists (The Perfectionists #1) by Sara Shepard

20549288The Cover: Font and overall style similar to PLL, but I really like this theme better. I like the pop of the bright blue background. The thorny purple rose feels a little sexy and and dangerous at the same time. It also seems a more intriguing since there’s no faces or dolls on the cover.

Back Blurb: In Beacon Heights, Washington, five high school seniors know that you don’t have to be good to be perfect.

Mackenzie, Ava, Caitlin, Julie, and Parker are all driven to be perfect–-no matter the cost. At first these five girls think they have nothing in common, until they discover they all hate the same person: rich, entitled Nolan, who’s done terrible things to each of them. They come up with the perfect plan to murder Nolan–-a hypothetical murder, of course. It’s all wishful thinking…until they wake up one morning to find that their wish came true. Nolan was killed, in exactly the way they planned. The thing is, they didn’t do it. So who did?

Suddenly the girls are the prime suspects in the murder. And they need to find the real killer before their perfect lives are ended–-for good.

The Book: Another sassy, fun, jaw-dropping series from Sara Shepard! If you loved PLL and The Lying Game, get to a Barnes & Noble immediately. Forget your plans for the day because you won’t be able to put The Perfectionists down. It’s so much more than just a murder mystery. In true Sara Shepard ensemble fashion, we follow five supposedly “perfect” girls who have more dirty laundry than the Hastings family. After you hear about their connections to Nolan and the awful things he did to them, the aspect of murder is the least considerable point of the story. It’s more about seeing if these girls come out on top, if they’re able to overcome the things Nolan did to them. The murder just adds a sprinkle of fun and anxiety to just wanting to know INSERT BLANK already. And by INSERT BLANK, it could be a million different things, like: Are we ever going to find out what really happened to Parker? Who the heck killed Nolan? Was it a freaky coincidence, or did someone want revenge? Revenge against Nolan, or the girls?

The Basics: Five girls from different cliques at Beacon High are working together on a school assignment. They find that they each have been burned badly by Nolan Hotchkiss. As a joke inspired by their assignment, they dream up a way for Nolan to die. When they realize they’re just joking but really do want revenge for the things he did, they decide to pull an embarrassing prank on him. Much to their horror, Nolan somehow ends up dead, exactly the way they planned.

But the girls didn’t kill him; they only wanted to humiliate him. They launch their own investigation and find a solid suspect. But the police aren’t buying into their theories. They end up being named persons of interests. Even if they’re not charged, each step they take proving who killed Nolan forces them closer to revealing their deepest, darkest secrets. Humiliating, scary, deadly secrets. Secrets that could ruin their perfect lives–-and futures.

The Characters: (MINOR SPOILERS)

  • Ava: Ava is rich and beautiful, but she has a far from envious life. She tragically lost her mother a few years ago and was betrayed by Nolan Hotchkiss. He spread a vicious rumor that she’s promiscuous, both with students and teachers. Ava’s popularity plummeted and she threw herself into her studies. This greatly improved her grades but also reinforced her new slutty stereotype. She’s flirty and likes to dress nice, but she’s definitely not the wanton woman everyone thinks she is. She hates Nolan for ruining her reputation, but is trying to overcome the humiliation and move on. The only real bright spot in her life is her new boyfriend Alex.
  •  Caitlin: Caitlin’s family has been completely broken, courtesy of Nolan Hotchkiss. Her fifteen-year-old brother Taylor committed suicide because of Nolan’s relentless bullying. Nolan was never punished for his role in Taylor’s death. Caitlin knows Taylor would want her to move on and live her life, so she tries to concentrate on soccer and her boyfriend, Josh. But Caitlin can’t let go of her hatred for Nolan. Out of all the girls, Caitlin is the one most angry at Nolan. She wants him to pay for what he did, and rightfully so.
  • Mackenzie: A polished musician, Mackenzie is competing against her best friend Claire for a spot at Juilliard. Mac used to be in love with Claire’s boyfriend, Blake. They’d been friends for years and when Blake went for Claire, Mac was crushed. She decided to focus solely on her music. Then Nolan came along and burned Mac with a humiliating and cruel prank. Mac swore off boys, but now Blake is showing interest. She knows it’s wrong because Claire is her best friend. After what Nolan did to her, she knows it’s best to stay away, but can’t resist.
  • Julie: Pretty and popular Julie appears to have everything, but she’s hiding a horrible secret about her family. The only person she lets in is Parker. They used to be Beacon’s It Girls before Parker’s “accident.” Julie retained her popularity but is fiercely loyal to her best friend. She spends half her time protecting Parker and the other half hiding her terrible secret. She was never scorned by Nolan directly, but she hates him for his role in What Happened to Parker, which we still really don’t know about.
  • Parker: Poor Parker is the most damaged of the group. She’s traumatized after What Happened. Her father is in jail and her mother basically disowned her. Parker is no longer the pretty, popular girl who used to rule Beacon’s social scene with Julie. She’s been reduced to a shell, holding on to Julie for dear life, then retreating when danger approaches. Nolan was a big part of What Happened, and neither Julie or Parker can forgive him.

Some Thoughts…So, I’ve just gotta to just say...DAMN. How many people in this tiny little town have a prescription for OxyContin? The doctors here hand it out like candy! It’s like everybody goes trick-or-treating at the same pharmacy.

The funny thing about this is, the first time I read this book, I was in the hospital and looped out on morphine and vicodin. My dad brought me The Perfectionists so I’d have something to pass the time besides watch my IV bag drip. One of my nurses asked me how my book was, so I explained the story and asked her about OxyContin. She said it’s generally used for severe trauma, like broken bones, or pain from prolonged illnesses, like cancer. Other narcotics, like vicodin, percocet, or morphine are used for more acute but less serious injuries.

Considering how strong OxyContin is, I guess it just adds a little more to the mystery here. The only real legitimate injury we know about is Caitlin’s sprained ankle. It was a severe high sprain, but seriously, there’s no way she’d get OxyContin for that (at least according to my nurse). They’d give her some aspirin, tell her to ice it, and send her on her way. If it was really bad or fractured, maybe some mild narcotics. But hey, I’m not professionally trained in the medical field, so I’m just telling you what the nurse said.

Anyway, this also leads to the question:  Who did Nolan get it from? Obviously not from Caitlin. And what else might have he been taking? If he was taking Oxy to get high, he likely started by smoking weed or drinking alcohol first. I guess in the end, it might not matter, since drugs aren’t what killed him. But what if he had some bad blood with one of his dealers? He seemed to have issues with a LOT of people. But who was angry enough to murder him?

My suspects for Nolan’s murderer: I think it’s safe to conclude that whoever did it most likely overheard the girls’ conversation, knew they were going to play a prank on Nolan, and decided to take it a step further and off him. Or it could be a complete coincidence. But I’ve spent 18 books and almost seven seasons vicariously living my life in Rosewood, and we know that in Rosewood, there are no coincidences. I doubt Beacon Heights is much different. In Rosewood, people come back from the dead. So who knows if Nolan or you-know-who are really gone? Are just taking literal afternoon dirt naps?

  • Granger: He looks pretty guilty, but that would be too obvious. It’s always the one you’d least suspect, and Sara pulls this off really well. Granger most likely overheard the girls’ conversation and he has a motive. In And Then There Were None, the first murder was from cyanide poisoning. Coincidence, or inspiration?
  • Alex: Alex was in film studies that day. He seems a little protective of Ava and may have been eavesdropping on the girls’ conversation. He’s overcome with anger after someone hurts Ava. He might have been just as angry at Nolan, but never had a chance to make him pay.
  • Ursula: Ursula is a pretty minor character, but she is definitely jealous of Caitlin. She goes out of her way to make Caitlin look bad because she wants her spot on the soccer team. There are also rumors of Nolan dating and dumping Ursula, who holds obvious disdain for him. Could Nolan have hurt her badly enough to make her want to get rid of him? She was in the film studies class. Could she have been trying to get rid of Caitlin and Nolan at once? Ursula makes a lot of creepy comments about Nolan to Caitlin. Is there something she knows that we don’t?
  • Jeremy: Taylor was Jeremy’s best friend, and he has an intense crush on Caitlin. He’s also incredibly smart. He probably wanted revenge for what Nolan did. He could have easily figured out a way to kill Nolan. But why would he want to frame Caitlin? He’s obviously in love with her. And he’s younger, so he couldn’t have been in film studies. Maybe someone else was in on it with him?
  • Elliot: His obsession with Parker is super creepy. Why is he so interested in her? We all want to know What Happened between her and Nolan, but he takes it to another level. Could he have been wanting to help Parker, even before he knew her? Julie had been seeing him for a while. Maybe he had wanted to help Julie because she’s so upset about what Nolan did to Parker. Obviously he wasn’t in film studies, but he’s still shady.
  • Ashley: Just a guess, and by a long shot. Ashley wants nothing more in the world to be Julie’s friend. She takes it way too far, to an obsessive level. Nolan burned a lot of girls. Maybe Nolan did something to Ashley and she killed him to earn Julie’s approval? Ashley seems a little crazy, but she might just be really insecure. It could go either way until we learn a little more about her.
  • One of the main characters: Do we actually hear ALL of them deny it? Could one of them have slipped back upstairs after taking the photos? Parker seems to disappear a lot. She says it hadn’t been her or the film studies girls, but then second-guesses herself. She seems to have sudden headaches and memory lapses. Could she have done something she didn’t remember doing after the prank? And when Caitlin visits Taylor’s grave, she says, “…maybe you saw me…with him…that night. But I did it for you. He couldn’t get away with it.” Then she cryptically says, “I don’t feel bad for what happened, though. And I don’t agree with what Mom said. It wasn’t enough for Nolan to live with what happened. He needed to pay.” Caitlin was also the first to say she would kill Nolan, and suggested the Oxycontin and cyanide.
  • img_5086Or….Are the murderer and whoever is trying to frame them even the same person? At the end of the prologue, the narrator says that somebody saw them and is going to make them pay. Could it be someone else? Who would have a reason to be angry at them? As far as I can tell, nobody in Beacon Heights really liked Nolan. He was popular because he was powerful. He seems to double cross everybody. People liked him because they had to. If they didn’t, he would torture them.

As for that (SPOILER ALERT) other murder:

I think it was Alex. Ava saw him that night, and the death occurred around the same time. He might have been so angry with what that person did to Ava that he killed said dead person in a fit of rage, then wiped his hands clean by telling the police Ava and the others were there. Or he had his own beef beforehand and used this opportunity to both get rid of his problem and pin it on someone else. Maybe it was premeditated. We really don’t know any of the details yet. Either way, Alex has been placed at the scene of the crime.

Side Note:really can’t read Nolan’s name without my brain saying Noel Kahn. They’re both slime.

What’s Next: I’m absolutely in love with this book! It’s kinda PLL meets The Betrayal of Natalie GargroveSadly, the series is only a duology. If you haven’t read the second book, The Good Girls (#2),  steer clear of the Goodreads page for The Perfectionists. Someone spoiled the entire second book in a comment The Perfectionists in one of the first reviews that appears. I was relly disappointed and didn’t want to read the second book anymore. But, as Maya St. Germain would say, “F*ck a moose”. I’m not letting that troll ruin it for me. It’s not like I havn’t reread the entire Selection series six times.

But, still, spoilers are soul-crushing! DON’T reveal spoilers but DO check back soon for my review on The Good Girls!

Who do you think killed Nolan? Or the next victim? Sound off in the comments below!

 

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