Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Wishing things were different doesn't change one memory.

The Perfect NeighborsThe Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Newport Cove is one of those perfect neighborhoods, where the neighbors all look out for each other, the parents and children are all friends, and the crime rate is historically low. However, for a small group of neighborhood women, things aren't always what they seem. Kellie has just returned to work after a long stint as a stay-at-home mom. She's busy adjusting to her new life-- and the attention of her handsome (and married) new co-worker. Kellie's neighbor, Susan, is a successful businesswoman. But she's also reeling from her divorce; she can't seem to stop stalking her ex-husband and his new girlfriend (Susan's ex-friend). Gigi, their friend, has a great life - two beautiful daughters and a handsome husband who is running for Congress - but her husband's Campaign Manager seems determined to unearth all her secrets, and her eldest daughter, Melanie, has turned into a sullen, unresponsive grump. And finally, a new family moves to the neighborhood. Tessa and her family seem to fit right in at first. But the women quickly notice that something seems "off" about Tessa and her husband. What exactly are they hiding?

This was an interesting book, to say the least. The central theme is clearly "everyone has secrets" - we are hit over the head with this several times. However, Kellie, Susan, and Gigi are just your average suburban moms, and their lives are pretty straightforward. Some inappropriate crushes, issues moving on, maybe one of them smokes a little pot once in a while. Nothing too insane. Tessa's secret is of a much larger caliber and, honestly, her entire storyline was pretty preposterous and unbelievable to me. I won't go much deeper than that, as to avoid spoilers, but the juxtaposition of Tessa versus sweet Kellie, who just wants to flirt a little, is a little ridiculous.

The book is told from the perspective of each character and in very short snippets at that. As such, it takes a while to sort out who is who and get invested in the characters. The technique of revealing such small details does allow for the building of suspense, I'll give you that. While Tessa's plot is a little crazy, it's certainly suspenseful and had me turning pages rather rapidly. The book does a good job at mocking the idea of these "idyllic neighborhoods" - one my favorite parts was the opening of each chapter, which featured pieces of the neighborhood's listserv (email) postings. They were quite humorous and a great commentary on society as a whole.

Overall, though, I just wanted to like this book more than I did. I was intrigued the entire time by Tessa's story, but then bothered by the craziness of how that turned out. Kellie's storyline bugged me because I just didn't think she was such a terrible person as she was made out to be. My favorite character was probably Susan. I liked pieces of each of them and enjoyed their stories, but overall, I just felt something lacking at the end of this one. Still, it was an entertaining read, with plenty of suspense thrown in.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss (thank you); it is available everywhere as of 07/05/2016. You can read my review of Sarah Pekkanen's previous book, "Things You Won't Say" here.

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