Back Blurb: In Beacon Heights, Washington, five perfect girls have done some not-so-perfect things…
High school seniors Mackenzie, Ava, Julie, Parker, and Caitlin have been accused of murder–-a murder they didn’t commit. Sure, they talked about killing rich bully Nolan Hotchkiss, but it’s just a coincidence that Nolan died in exactly the way they planned…right?
Except Nolan wasn’t the only enemy they mentioned that day. Each girl named someone else, someone she wished would just…disappear. They never meant for anyone to get hurt, but when someone else on their list dies, the girls wonder: Are they being framed? Or are they about to become the killer’s next targets?
The Book: Before I talk about The Good Girls, I have to announce some pretty exciting news. Get ready for it.
Sara Shepard is following me on Instagram.
That’s right. SARA SHEPARD. The one and only author of PLL. She even liked one of my photos! When I saw the notification, I ran into my boyfriend’s office and demanded he guess who just followed me. He guessed Kiera Cass (I’m still hoping) and then gave up so I screamed “Sara Shepard!”. He was slightly annoyed, but hey, he bought me the book! So Sara, if you read this, you must know that I bow to your magical pen. You are a goddess, a controller of my emotions. You make me laugh, swoon, feel hopeful, terrify me, and rip my heart out of my chest all in the same book. I love and fear you at the same time.
Anyway, enough with the author stalking. On to the book! I honestly can’t reveal too much without seriously spoiling it. But I will say there is a MAJOR plot twist. And beware, on the Goodreads review page for The Perfectionists, there is a comment on one of the first reviews that spoils The Good Girls. I accidentally saw it but read it anyway. And you know what? It didn’t even matter because the book was so good. That’s just what Sara Shepard does. You can re-read her books a million times and still get all the feels.
The Plot: (MINOR SPOILERS)
Where We Left Off: Ava, Caitlin, Mac, Julie, and Parker suspected Granger had killed Nolan because Nolan had been blackmailing him. After the girls break into Granger’s house looking for proof, Granger ends up dead. Their fingerprints are all over it, but they didn’t do it. But they still don’t know–-did Granger kill Nolan? Or did someone kill Nolan and then kill Granger, planning to frame the girls for both murders?
Now, as you’ll notice from the back blurb, there’s a insanity-inducing plot twist to the whole Let’s-Get-Revenge-on-Nolan Game. What we missed from the first book (when Mac mentioned that she said something horrible about Claire in film studies) is that the conversation went much deeper than we first imagined. Each girl actually named another person she would want to die and the manner in which she would want him/her to die. This was completely left out of the first book, which is something Sara likes to do. She leaves out certain details and reveals them in later books, consequently sending us into a tailspin. She hits us with a sledgehammer in this one with another sudden, seemingly random death.
The girls are horrified when they realize it was someone else on their list, in exactly the way they imagined. But was it murder, or a coincidence? Are more people in danger? The girls must find the killer (or killers) before more people die. But the police think they killed Nolan and Granger. They need to convince the police of their innocence before they’re convicted of murder. But how can they when all the evidence points to them?
The Good Girls runs at a much quicker pace than The Perfectionists. There’s so much more going on here. The girls are trying to solve the murders they’ve been accused of, the police are trying to pit them against each other, and the killer strikes again. All the while, they’re trying to get scholarships, deal with rocky relationships, and protect themselves from vicious frenemies. Not to mention keep hidden their terrible secrets involving Nolan.
This time, things are much worse for the five friends. Ava’s stepmother Leslie crosses the line from verbal to physical abuse and threatens her into silence. Ava misses her mother terribly. Things with Alex are shaky, too. Mac is still reeling from Claire’s betrayal and her feelings for Blake. Her dream of Juilliard is turning into a four-year-long nightmare with Claire. Caitlin is trying to find a new normal without Taylor. She doesn’t know if it includes Josh, Jeremy, or soccer. Her moms are still suspicious of her involvement with Nolan’s death, considering she had a prescription for OxyContin, and after what Nolan did to Taylor.
Parker and Julie seem to have it the worst. They’re the least stable of the group. Parker has almost no one besides Julie to support her. She’s traumatized from her dad’s attack. Drinking might dull the pain for a few hours, but it’s just going to make things worse. Poor Julie has been the victim of several cruel, ruthless pranks. Her reputation has been ruined. With a mentally ill mother and absent father, she also has almost nowhere to turn except Parker. But Parker is a train wreck waiting to happen. Julie will do anything to help her, but this time, she may be too late.
I will be honest and say that some of the girls really started to piss me off. But sometimes I like getting angry because it means I’ve become attached to the characters, that the author has done a good job at making them relatable. They make stupid choices that I probably would have made, because like me, they’re human. Like Mac, getting all competitive with Claire over a guy she doesn’t even really like. Girl, you are better than that! You don’t need a man and that is SO not you. And Caitlin, for getting mad at Jeremy for being the opposite of Josh. The whole reason she liked Jeremy in the first place is because he’s NOT like Josh. And Ava, I get that your stepmom’s a bitch, but you really need to tell your dad. It’s obvious he loves you and wants you to be happy. He’s just clueless. But I do admire you for keeping Alex’s secret. That’s true loyalty.
I do love how the girls all ended up learning life lessons and became friends. Some characters I didn’t like got their comeuppances. I thought it’d be happy, but i was actually sad. Things happen, but did they truly deserve it? Sure, they were immature at times, but everyone makes mistakes. A few people lost a lot.Plans, hopes, and dreams for their futures were shattered. It’s definitely sad, but it’s also realistic. Things happen and people don’t alway get what they want or deserve, and that’s just life. In the end, there’s always a silver lining.
Something else I love is the diversity of the characters. Sara has a way of creating real characters without making a big deal out of race, ethnicity, or family-related issues. So Caitlin is Korean and has two gay moms? What an interesting family! I’d love to hang out with them for a day and hear their stores. Ava is Persian and Irish? What a culturally rich background! Perfect Julie Redding has no father but a hoarder mother? Tragic, but inspirational. Sara shows us that while girls come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, we are all beautiful, no matter what battles we are fighting.
That Ending: For most of the girls, their endings were fitting. Not all happy, but their stories were neatly completed and their futures set and hopeful. But that last chapter…Even though I knew what was going to happen, reading the last chapter was a punch straight into my heart. Honestly, I’m still confused…is it even real? Was any of that ever real? Am I even real?
The ending is one of the sneakiest tricks Sara has ever pulled on us. But after you go back and re-read the books, it’s COMPLETELY obvious. The truth was there the whole time. She dangled it in front of us like a carrot, and we DIDN’T SEE IT. In the Acknowledgements in The Perfectionists, Sara says, “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.” Well, there’s absolutely nobody that can do that like Sara Shepard. I love you Sara! You are my idol
What’s Next: I thought I’d be disappointed with a duology, but the story ended perfectly. So now that the story of our five friends at Beacon Heights has come to a close, we’ve spent countless years in Rosewood, stopped in Arizona for a twin/murder mystery, and Sara’s still got two whole series to go! Sadly, I don’t own the last of those books yet, so I’ve got to give love to another author and do a book haul. Check back soon for a new adventure!
But don’t you worry, Sara Shepard, I’ll never be finished with you. I’ll be joining you soon with The Heiresses and The Amateurs. And thank you so much for the Instagram follow!
Side Note: Sara mentions Monterey and Oakland. I lived in both the Monterey Bay and Bay Area 🙂
How shocking was The Good Girls? Sound off in the comments below!