Riley Stone is practically perfect, and everyone knows it. She’s popular, gets perfect grades, excels at everything she does, and is all-around a model teenager, active in charities and bound for an Ivy league college. When it becomes clear that her super hot French teacher maybe returns her feelings, Riley abandons her no-dating rules in order to pursue what she knows is a forbidden relationship. In order to distract her friends from her new love interest, she starts joining them at parties and other social gatherings she’d previously eschewed in order to study. But while Riley thinks she’s calling the shots, so does Mr. Belrose, and the results are surprising.
Hailed as Pretty Little Liars meets Luckiest Girl Alive (this is debatable), this taut, twisty novel from Amanda K. Morgan will grip readers from the start and won’t let them go until the very end. There’s a lot of good, compelling stuff here, including Morgan’s meticulous characterization of Riley up until the very end. Interspersed between Riley’s first-person narration are short lists of things that people should know about Riley Stone. At first, these seem like a Mean Girls-esque way of talking up Riley’s popularity, but it isn’t long before savvy readers are going to start to connect the dots and realize there’s a larger puzzle in play. The last bit of the book provides closure that some might see coming, though how Morgan chooses to get there is still somewhat of a surprise.
Also interestingly portrayed is the burgeoning relationship between Riley and Mr. Belrose, who used to be a friend of her brother’s and who pursues Riley as hard as she pursues him. While it’s still a predatory relationship without question, Riley’s ability to manipulate those around her makes for a complicated dynamic between the two. There are moments where it feels like they’re almost perfect for one another in that they’re both kind of sociopaths.
The problem comes near the book’s climax, where everything goes off the rails. What was a compelling, believable narrative gets turned completely around in an unbelievable way, making the novel’s shocking reveal fall completely flat. Some readers will love the shocking ending, while seasoned readers are likely to be left scratching their heads. Unreliable narrators work best when the author doesn’t go for the cheapest ending possible.
Still, this was an enjoyable read, and it holds immense teen appeal.
Such a Good Girl by Amanda K. Morgan. Simon Pulse: 2017. Library copy.