“I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”
Mia Dennett is the black sheep of her socialite family. Her father, a prominent Chicago Judge, wanted nothing more than to have both his daughters follow in his footsteps. His eldest, Grace, did, but creative Mia had more in mind for her life. She became an art teacher at an inner-city school, causing her cold father to ostracize her, and his repressed wife to reluctantly follow suit.
The family’s dynamic is put under a microscope when Mia disappears. Her father believes this is one of her “stunts,” but Mia’s mother is certain that something is wrong. It soon becomes clear that she is right. The Good Girl follows Mia’s story through three perspectives—Eve, her mother; Gabe, the detective on her case; and Colin, her abductor—and two shifting time periods—before Mia’s discovery, and after she comes home.
This novel was immediately on my radar, with it’s rave reviews and multiple comparisons to Gillian Flynn’s chilling Gone Girl. However, I found myself in for quite a disappointment. Though this novel claims to be a thriller, frankly, there was nothing thrilling about it. I never found myself on the edge of my seat, certainly never experiencing any sort of suspense. From the get-go you know what happens to Mia, and you know that she comes home. You know that she was kidnapped, who did it, and what happens to her while she is away. The only thing that felt remotely mysterious was the reasoning behind Mia’s amnesia and PTSD. This, however, was only mildly interesting—even the “twist” at the end was predictable. Had this novel been marketed as simply fiction, I think I would have enjoyed it more. The characters are compelling, the family dysfunction is palpable and real, and the relationships that form are adequately complex. It is with The Good Girl’s characterization as “psychological thriller” that I mainly take issue.
Not only is this novel not particularly thrilling, it wasn’t very psychological either—at least not in the sense it was meant to be. It is Mia’s psychology that is the main focus. She is perceived to be a “good girl” but the evidence of this is purely circumstantial. Mia’s perspective is not one that is explored in the book. It is meant to remain a mystery with the reader only gleaning bits and pieces through others’ experiences and observations. However, I did not find Mia’s psychology particularly interesting—I did not care about it much at all, and I think I was meant to. Not only so, but I also never felt like I really did get a satisfactory glimpse into her mind. I did enjoy the other characters, though. I found Eve, Mia’s mother, especially interesting, because this whole ordeal caused her to reflect on her role as mother and wife.
On the whole, I do not think The Good Girl achieved what Kubica intended. However, the writing is well done (for the most part), and the characters are well drawn (for the most part). If it was not for these two things, I would have given The Good Girl C-. This book has loads of potential, but it felt half baked.
In conclusion, this book never really sat well with me. I finished it, but I at times that felt like a challenge. Its lack of promised thrills made it drag on at times, and even in the end it didn’t deliver. However, I seem to be in the minority on Goodreads, so if you’re interested in “thrillers,” give it a go and tell me what you think. But please, don’t expect it to even come close to Gone Girl, no matter what anyone says.