Review: The Perfect Neighborhood (Liz Alterman)

Allison Langley ditches her husband and their supposed perfect life in their perfect house in Oak Hills in the middle of the night. In suburbia, everyone thinks they know your business, so the the tongues start flapping with gossip, true or not.

But then five year old Billy Barnes goes missing while walking home alone one day. Suddenly, everyone is a detective, or a pretender that their own lives are perfect while dumping on Billy’s mom Rachel, whose marriage is rocky and who has a stepson who is as much a jackass as his father Ted, Rachel’s husband, although for different reasons. They also lay blame on 18 year old Cassidy, the babysitter, who was late getting to the house. It’s hard to say if Billy went missing as he was walking home, or if he made it home, and was taken from there. The police can’t find anything, and when they drag the pond, it turns into a neighborhood event, with everyone watching.

Another child goes missing – also under Cassidy’s care, and you can imagine how well that goes over with the neighborhood, which had started to feel sorry for her.

The story is told from various members of the neighborhood, but only the women. That includes Rachel, who is absolutely torn up about her missing boy, Cassidy, who can’t bring herself to tell the truth about why she was late, and Allison, who has escaped the neighborhood for reasons she details in her pieces of the narrative, and who is obsessed by Billy’s disappearance.

The story is interesting – what white bread shark’s nest suburbia isn’t, when they’re ready to chop one another into pieces? – but there was at least one POV chapter I’d have stricken as not adding much to things other than trying to be Cassidy’s conscience. The villain is not entirely out of the blue, and the ending hints at a possible not-sequel-but-next-book sort of thing.

The writing itself is fine, and while there are a couple of draggy bits here and there, I chalk that up to typical going about life things: most peoples’ lives are boring and routine, and sometimes the narrative has to show that.

Three and half out of five stars, rounded up to four, because the book works.

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

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