on July 29, 2014
Her name is Mia, a 25-year-old art teacher from a well-to-do Chicago family. She's been abducted by a man she met in a bar and held captive at a remote cabin in another state. Now she's returned--but the woman who comes back is not at all like the woman who vanished. She calls herself Chloe now, and she apparently doesn't remember much of her ordeal or of her life before it. Amnesia, the doctors call it. Her socialite mother, a concerned police detective assigned to the case, and the abductor himself take turns filling in the blanks of Mia/Chloe's story. And it's quite a story...
Mary Kubica's first novel is unusually constructed: several voices, all in the present tense, jumping back ("Before") and forth ("After") in time. This may sound complicated, but it isn't. For a first novel, THE GOOD GIRL is amazingly polished and professional. All the characters spring to life as they speak, and I really began to care about them--especially the young woman at the center of the plot.
I've already seen early reviews comparing this to GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn and STILL MISSING by Chevy Stevens, and I think it's every bit as good as both of them. If you like low-key psychological suspense stories about troubled families and the secrets they hide, you really should try this. Highly recommended.
on July 29, 2014
Twenty-four year old Mia Dennett is the daughter of Chicago Judge James Dennett, a man of old money and dismissive family responsibilities, and British Eve Dennett, a homemaker and socialite. Sister to Grace, the oldest and a lawyer just like their father, Mia doesn’t buy into the family lifestyle; instead, she is an art teacher. Jason, her inconsistent boyfriend, is supposed to meet her on the night she is kidnapped but calls to say he has to work late.
From the beginning of the novel, the reader is aware that Mia has been taken by a man named Colin Thatcher and that he kept her in cabin in Minnesota. In fact, Mia has already been found only a few chapters in. What follows is a mixture of multiple perspectives, both before and after Mia is found, telling the story of how Mia, who refers to herself as Chloe, copes with her kidnapping, how Detective Gabe stops at nothing to find her, and how her mother Eve tries to solve Mia’s trauma-induced amnesia and help her remember the truth.
While many will suggest that Kubica’s novel follows in the same vein as Gone Girl, I actually found this to be much more entertaining. I could not put this book down whereas I struggled through Flynn’s multiple narrators. What works for Kubica is her uncanny ability to seamlessly weave both time and storytelling. The chapters are short, and each character’s narration adds something new and unique to the plot.
Colin’s “Before” chapters are the most interesting because it is through his eyes that you see what actually happened to Mia, which she doesn’t remember. I found myself anxiously skimming through some other chapters just to get to the Colin pages. Detective Gabe’s chapters are interesting as well because you can watch as he puts the pieces together to find Mia while also developing a closer relationship with Eve. Perhaps least interesting are Eve’s “Before” accounts because she tends to be a little “woe is me” whereas her “After” chapters are fascinating because the reader watches her become the mother she wants to be.
The Good Girl is filled with twists and turns leading all the way to the last two pages where you will be absolutely floored. Don’t skip to the ending; it’s worth the wait!
on December 4, 2014
So, I saw that The Good Girl was getting a lot of buzz, and a lot of comparisons to Gone Girl, so I figured I’d give it a try. I kind of wish I hadn’t.
The Good Girl is the story of Mia Dennett, (daughter of prominent judge James Dennett), who is kidnapped by Colin Thatcher. The story is told through the eyes of Mia’s mother (Eve), Colin, and the detective who can’t rest until he finds her, Gabe Hoffman. The narrative jumps back and forth in time, taking place both before and after Mia’s rescue.
Colin’s job was simple. He was to snatch Mia and deliver her to underworld boss Dalmar, for which he would be paid five thousand dollars. However, once he meets Mia, and she drunkenly agrees to go home with him, he finds that he can’t just turn her over to the hardcore criminal who will likely kill her. Instead, he goes on the run with her. They hole up in a secluded cabin in Minnesota, where they have to fight for survival in the freezing cold.
Mia is eventually rescued, but it’s not exactly a happy ending. The Mia who is returned to her mother is not the Mia who was taken. She insists that her name is Chloe, and she has no memory of anything that took place during her captivity. She’s nearly mute, and terrified of everything. We gradually learn what took place during the long, cold weeks in the cabin, how it ended, and how it all came about.
Sometimes, I’ll read a story, and immediately dislike it, but as I think about it, it makes more sense, and grows on me. The Good Girl is the opposite - the more I think about it, the worse it gets.
The last few pages ruin the whole story. For one thing, a shocker-twist ending really only works if there are some hints along the way (even if they are subtle ones) as to what really happened. The Good Girl’s final reveal felt tacked-on, and made absolutely no sense in light of all that had come before. In fact, it was an insult. It was like “Hey? You know alllllll those chapters that take place in the freezing cabin, where Mia and Colin were hiding from the boogeyman? Yeah, just ignore all that, ok?”
Oh, there’s a brief mention of Stockholm Syndrome, but rather than explain everything, it just highlights how far you have to strain to make this story at all credible. There are other “are you serious?” moments as well. I mean, how many career criminal mastermind types leave voice mails for their accomplices directly referencing the crime they are committing? How many upper-class, highly-connected people who commit crimes go immediately to jail, without dragging it out for months or years? Don’t get me started on Gabe’s love interest at the end and how very little sense it made.
And the characters. Eve’s a martyr, Gabe’s a saint, Colin is the Bad Boy With A Heart of Gold, James is a heartless power-hungry jerk, and Mia is the poor little rich girl who has everything but love. They are all one-dimensional. There’s even a bit of casual racism thrown in.
Mary Kubica had a lot of potential with this one, and I think that’s what frosts my buns the most. The setup was good, the weird way the first three-quarters played out was almost a brand-new take on the hostage thriller, and I liked the Chevy Stevens-ish way the author mixed up the timeline. But it was like someone told her that a book wouldn’t sell without a twist ending, so she went “Ok, FINE, here’s a twist ending” and added it without ever editing any of the rest of the book. What a letdown.
The Nerd’s Rating: ONE HAPPY NEURON
on September 6, 2014
After reading mostly self-published authors recently, I decided to take Amazon's suggestion, pay full price, and read a debut novel backed by an agent, editor and publisher. What a disappointment. Three chapters in I was so annoyed i was ready to quit. But I kept going out of a sort of morbid curiosity. What were all these people seeing to merit five star reviews?
Mary Kubica writes well. And she started with an intriguing plot concept, a kidnapping for ransom that is not what it seems. But her approach to presenting the story did not work for me at all.
Kubica tells the story through three different first-person narratives: the Mother, the Kidnapper, and the Detective, and bounces the reader crazily back and forth between Before the kidnapping ends and After. Incredibly, the Good Girl, who should be the protagonist, is not a viewpoint character until the nonsensical Epilogue. The other viewpoint characters often tell us the Good Girls thoughts and feelings, which always had me yelling "how do they know?". As a result of this structure, I never came to like or care about any of the characters. It did not help that each is presented as shallow, pathetic and self-loathing.
The unappealing structure was made worse by frequent plot holes and factual errors. The text often betrayed Kubica's urban sensibilities and lack of knowledge on many subjects. Canoes are not made of material that rusts, lakes freeze from the edges, and people have happily survived the winter for centuries in dwellings heated with wood. The cabin she describes has running water and electricity, but no cable TV - the horror.
Next time Amazon recommends a book, I'm going to read the critical reviews before I click "buy now".
on March 6, 2015
I am sorry to say but I stopped reading the book immediately when Mia had been returned home and was going to hypnosis. The moment the author gave away the plot "this is wasn't .....this wasn't supposed ....to happen." I knew instantly what the ending of the book would be and to be honest the writing style was not worth my effort to read another 277 pages. I went to the last 25 pages read just to confirm my instincts and I was right. The final let down for me was the authors description of her kidnapper "He was black,like the blackest of black bears, like the blubbery skin of the killer whale, an alpha predator with no predators of their own." Honestly I am Caucasian and I was offended for my fellow human beings. I always open to a good description but this border on racial over kill. I would not recommend this book.
on July 16, 2015
Notice to readers: Spoiler alerts in this review
Why is every book touted these days as the next "Gone Girl" or "if you loved "Gone Girl"...you'll love this book?" They've done that with "The Good Girl" where the only resemblance I can see is that they both have the world "Girl" in the title. I wish Amazon and critics would stop doing this. Don't try to hook readers like that especially when there is no comparison
After I finished reading this book, I went straight to the one star reviews to see why they hated it [after buying it because of the five star reviews] and I have to agree with a lot of their points while also admitting I liked the book more than they did. And I think I know why. It so reminded me of Patty Duke and Al Freeman, Jr. in the film "My Sweet Charlie" where a black lawyer holds a racist pregnant white girl captive and they fall in love. There was something so incredibly romantic about that movie and it happened in this book as well. A lot of reviewers are decrying the whole "Stockholm Syndrome" dynamic that occurs in this book while I thought the author did a very good job of developing the relationship between Mia and Colin. And there was something poignantly sweet as their relationship changes and they discover themselves in each other.
And while I am normally very good at plot twists [saw "Gone Girl's" a mile away as well as "The Girl on The Train"], I missed this so kudos to all the readers who guessed the ending. I didn't. As a matter of fact, I didn't guess anything that was going to happen in this book. Possibly because while the other books I mentioned were overtly mysteries, "The Good Girl" was not.
I didn't mind the story switching back and forth in time. It was all told through the lens of the mother, the detective and the kidnapper. And what the author did do well was make their voices different. She gave the detective a sense of humor which wasn't in any of the other characters. Not hearing anything from the protagonist [Mia] until the end was annoying until I just decided to go with the flow.
Here's what I didn't like: oh, another anti-abortion message. I am coming across that more and more in books these days and while I respect the opinion of people who are pro-life...do you really have to shove your opinion down my throat? I get it...you think abortion is murder. But I also think that you can have a character carry a baby without lecturing your readers on what your personal feelings are.
The racism. When I read the description of Dalmar at the end: "he was black, like the blackest of black bears, like the blubbery skin of the killer whale, an alpha predator with no predators of their own" I thought....wow...make the only African-American character in the entire book to be the worst person in the world with no redeeming characteristics. And what kind of way is that to describe anyone? Extremely jarring....
The father. He's going to jail, is he? For something he did 14 years earlier. Uh-huh. Have you never heard of high priced lawyers especially since this guy's a judge? I wish the justice system was that fair but the father is going nowhere. Not until he's tied the courts up for years.
If I had stayed in the cabin with Mia and Colin, I would have probably given this book more stars. Stockholm Syndrome or not, I found the author's description of their relationship to be very romantic.
on August 24, 2014
When Amazon sent me an email promoting this book and offering a big discount on the hardcover, I took a gamble. The teaser sounded great. I mean, how many other readers saw that quote from the kidnapper and thought, "Wow, I need to read this!" I know I did.
But that's where the suspense ended. That quote is easily the best quote from the entire book. It raised the bar too high for a reader that has read her share of suspense books with twists. I agree with another reviewer that stated there are very good descriptions. The writing in those parts will make me give the author another chance on her next publication.
As for this story, I kept waiting for the action. I, like other reviewers, fell asleep. I can usually finish a book over the course of a few days tops...but this one took me 6 days. And I had to push to finish. By the time I got to the last two pages, I was disgusted with the main character.
Spoiler Alert - Yes, the title is ironic because she isn't a good girl. She is a vengeful sociopath hellbent on ruining her sociopathic father's career. At the end, I was left feeling there were a few obvious plot holes. This detective that latched onto very small clues to pursue the kidnapper...doesn't find out that she rented a secret apartment? It's not like that landlord would keep quiet when Mia's photo is splashed everywhere. I could only guess that it was a sublet because having a power bill in her name would have been too obvious a hole. But again...if all these other coincidental things are going to line up, I can't help seeing that hole. I would have been more interested in the story if she actually confronted her father and made sure he knew what she did to him. While it still would have made me hate her attitude, it would have made the story more interesting. The arrogance of this woman...to believe that the organizer of the kidnapping wouldn't out her and blackmail her later? Seriously? As a reader I'm supposed to just believe that this guy isn't going to out her so he gets paid?!?!?! I don't think so.
on October 28, 2014
I rarely write reviews, but feel obliged to speak out against the tide of positive reviews here. The writing is tortured, it feels like it was written by a child. Some examples, "...his bravado was charming, not the unpleasant way it's grown to be." Huh? How about, "[t]here's trees, lots of them. Pine, spruce, fur." And then there was the particularly annoying repeated use of the word "before," "I slide an end table before the door to keep it closed." Does the author think that anyone actually speaks like that? At one point, Colin stares "[a]t her hair, falling mindlessly over the ivory shoulders." Can hair fall thoughtfully?
Beyond the hideous use of language, the characters are shallow and one-dimensional. Horrible, horrible, horrible....do not waste your money.
on July 30, 2014
The thing about The Good Girl, and maybe I was under the wrong impression, is that I expected it to be a mystery. Am I crazy? (Don't answer that.) Having read it, and not disliked it, it had its mysteries, but I also wouldn't go so far as to call it a mystery. The story of Mia's disappearance is told from three different perspectives, Detective Hoffman, the cop assigned to find Mia; Eve, Mia's mother; and Colin, the guy who kidnaps Mia. Colin's perspective all takes place in what I'm going to call the present tense, that is he tracks Mia, kidnaps her, and hides her in a cabin in Minnesota, so we don't know how that ends, but we do know where Mia is and that she's alive and if not completely well, at least unharmed for the time being. However, the perspectives of Detective Hoffman and Eve are told alternating between the present, when Mia goes missing, and the future (crap, maybe I should have called that the present) where Mia is home with no memory of what happened to her after she was kidnapped.
So we know where Mia went when she was kidnapped, we know about her life as a captive, and we know that she eventually makes it home at least physically safe pretty much right at the beginning of the story. We don't know how she came to be home or the entanglements that will begin to arise between Mia's family, friends, and the people who are looking for her. I should say that all of this was handled very well. I enjoyed the writing, even though it wasn't quite a mystery I was still interested in what was happening, and I wanted to keep reading to find out how it was all going to end, I just wasn't quire sure what the end was that I was reading towards.
My second issue with the book was Mia herself. The title of the book and the description lead me to think that Mia is this nice, quiet inner-city school teacher and the picture of Mia that evolves, both from what we find out from the detective and her mother and what we see from her interactions with Colin, is that Mia is a complicated person and frankly, one that I didn't really like. She left home at 18 after many issues with her parents (which I don't blame her for, her father sounded pretty controlling and terrible), but then she kind of got lost and while I didn't think she deserved to be kidnapped or have another happen to her, I also had a difficult time empathizing with her or even liking her, something that I don't think is necessary, but that I think would have been helpful in this situation.
I don't think it's going to shock anyone when I say that there's a twist at the end of this book, I'll say that I kind of 50% saw it coming, I thought that might be the case, but I hadn't really thought it through and I wasn't really sure, but I don't think my enjoyment of the book was lessened by the fact that I kind of guessed the twist. I will say I didn't care for the twist, it made me even further dislike Mia and left me with a somewhat bad taste in my mouth.
Bottom Line: My issues with this book are more about my own expectations and experience than about the book. I expected more of a mystery and I wanted to like and empathize with the main character. The book itself is smart, interesting, and well done, it's just not what I was looking for and a large part of me suspects other people might also be expecting more of a mystery and more of a "good girl" as well.
I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley (thank you!). All opinions are my own.
on August 25, 2014
Give me a break! Spoiler alert: after forcing my way through terribly boring musings of two dimensional characters, I found the ending ridiculous. How do rich white girls easily end up in a kidnapping scheme with a notorious criminal? (I am in complete agreement with a fellow commentator, in the disgusting use of racial profiling in Dalmar's character. The author is racially ignorant.)
When was the last time a prominent, white judge need up behind bars and disbarred? Never. He would have the case tied up in litigation, out on bail, until he died---he can afford it. Good luck getting a 13 year old bribery charge to stick, especially on a judge. Chicago PD could not figure the girl was involved in her own kidnapping plot? She left a trail wide enough to follow---the apartment, etc. Isn't that a crime?
I hate it when the author does not do her research, credibility goes out the door. There is no such thing as a "climbing hydrangea vine" nor do Aspen trees "form a canopy" over a street when growing; they grow rod straight up, at least all 15 of mine do.
This plot had so much potential...... Delivered so little.