Zoe Maisey and her stepbrother Lucas Kennedy are members of what Zoe calls "second chance" family. Both teenagers are musically talented - child geniuses even - and their first joint public performance should have been a joyful occasion. A chance to showcase their considerable talents.
A second chance for Zoe to shine, after the terrible thing that she did.
Zoe's fragile mother Maria has done her best to carve out a new life for herself and Zoe with her dynamic new husband after the horrors of the past. Zoe now has a much loved baby sister too. What got Zoe through her incarceration in a youth facility was her desire to continue with the piano. The concert that she agrees to do at the desperate request of her mother was to be their triumph. The night instead ends in a murder and the nightmare begins again for Zoe. The eyes of everyone are on the one person in their midst who has killed before.
One thing you can't get away from in the novel is the sneaking suspicion that it is a one trick pony.
THE PERFECT GIRL was renamed (clue; the previous title did not have 'girl' in it) before initial publication and refers to the level of self control that Zoe must maintain lest her new life unravels. Zoe was once the focus of a police investigation after causing the death of three of her peers at a teenage party. THE PERFECT GIRL features the perspectives of Zoe's family members plus the family lawyer (a sad little subplot that is never resolved) so whilst it is not all about a frightened teen, the book never graduates beyond the immediacy of the period in which Zoe's mother's body is discovered and the police begin their questioning.
Set over the course over 24 hours there isn't much opportunity for the police investigation to progress, or for any further suspense to build beyond the newer killing. Opportunities to delve into the aftermath of a crime aren't explored. The flashbacks into Zoe's past do little to illuminate her character and to make her into someone we want to see succeed and move on past her tragedies.
All in all, even for a murder book, THE PERFECT GIRL is a gloomy read and struggles to find a sense of purpose in the latter half of the book with all that despair dragging it down.