The Perfect Girlfriend: Karen Hamilton
Genre: Psychological thriller
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Slytherin
Nate and Juliette are meant to be. Just ask Juliette: it was fate that brought them together years ago.
But now Nate has broken up with her. Juliette isn’t worried though: fate is clearly on their side. And she’d do anything to get them back together again, even if that means getting a new job and flying around the world so she can keep an eye on–and manipulate– his activities.
Juliette isn’t worried. Because she has a plan to get him back for good, whether he likes it or not.
The Perfect Girlfriend is a combination of things I most enjoy in a psychological thriller: an unstable main character (NOT necessarily unreliable), a romance gone wrong, and a woman doing sneaky things to accomplish her goal that we may or may not see coming. Although it’s maybe a done concept by now, when it’s done right, it never fails to satisfy me, and I’d say that Hamilton has done just that.
It’s a slow burn, but the devil is in the details. During the first half, I actually found myself most interested in the details of the career of Juliette/Elizabeth, our main character who is also a flight attendant. It’s not a world I know very much about and few readers probably will. An airplane is a great place for drama to happen, given that it’s so far from ground and claustrophobic. While the book does take a while to get going, I was entertained by her life story and still kept on the edge of my seat to see exactly what this plan would be. Casual bits are dropped to the reader over time, and there are some details which I simply figured out on my own. This is a unique way of writing plot twists–by not ending chapters on big reveals or making a big fuss, but instead by casually revealing things in a way that makes sense.
Adding to the suspense and making up for semi-slowness is Juliette’s cold and calculating voice. She is a good planner, but she is also delusional especially in regards to others’ thinking and her voice captures that very well. My only issue with that is that Hamilton sometimes seems to assume that Nate is thinking the same way, even though Juliette is supposed to be quite the sociopathic thinker and thus typically inaccurate. (Near the end, you’ll see what I mean–it seems unlikely things would just end that way.) She is also sympathetic in that I know what it feels like to have those types of feelings for someone you want to be with when you’re lonely; Hamilton accurately captures those flashes of rage and jealousy. Her backstory adds to the suspenseful tone as well–yes, there is a dead mother scene and yes, it probably could have been left out–but there is also a childhood trauma that plays a part in making Juliette the person she is. You never stop getting the feeling that things are coming, and come they do, particularly as the novel progresses.
Mid-book, the plot jumps from 25 mph to 100. This is when the plans really begin to pick up, but there are other forces from the past too: Bella, Juliette’s tormentor from boarding school, is tied into everything as well. So as she tracks down Nate, there are other parts devoted to her getting revenge. At times, I felt sympathetic to the point where halfway through the book I wondered: is Juliette the good guy here? At first it seems like there are just many subplots, but readers will find that they tie together in the end. As for the action itself? Sometimes I did have to suspend disbelief, for example during a scene where she is tricking Nate into taking a bigger step by using drugs and the later evidence shows that he is happy about taking that step. It seemed to me that it would be pretty difficult to get someone to go through with those kinds of things whilst on drugs and to look happy about them even more. No doubt that Juliette gets lucky sometimes. SBut I would also love to see a thriller where everything goes wrong for the person in question.
I won’t spoil the ending here, but it’s a little different than what you might expect. It wasn’t entirely my cup of tea, but it was fine, and I also thought that again it was unlikely that the characters were accepting their fates at that point in time when there were still things that could be done. Or maybe it was just me overthinking things. Otherwise, I can’t think of many things that bothered me in this novel. This was a hard one to put down. If you like thrillers about romance gone wrong, you’ll enjoy The Perfect Girlfriend.
SONG OF THE NOVEL: Look What You Made Me Do; Taylor Swift