Published April 26, 2016
I read this book over the span of three days but honestly would have read it in one sitting if time had permitted. I really wanted to know what was going to happen next!
***Possibly some minor spoilers***
The book starts in present day, June 2015. Liz McGinnis wakes up to the sound of someone screaming. At first she thinks that it’s just the kids next door playing. However, she soon realizes that the screaming is coming from outside where her fifteen-year-old daughter Danielle and her friend were hanging out earlier, listening to music and swimming. She hears them calling for her help. When she finally gets outside she sees the girls in the pool, it almost looks like they are playing a game. But what she’s seeing is definitely not a game.
“There were three girls in the water and one of them was limp, her head flopped forward, blond hair plastered over her face”.
We are then taken back, to a year earlier. The McGinnis family are just three weeks into their new life. Liz doesn’t feel they fit in to the new neighborhood, THE PALMS. She feels like it’s an experiment, the hypothesis being that they would never fit in with these people. That it was a big mistake to move there.
The Palms was so exclusive, so tightly knit, it was like living in a fishbowl”.
Phil is the community relations specialist for the neighborhood. The job comes with the huge four thousand square feet house that they could never afford otherwise.
When they are invited to a wine and cheese party at one of the neighbors, Liz doesn’t want to go, but Phil convinces her it’s important they make an appearance. As they meet their neighbors Liz is feeling even more like they’ll never fit in. Just as she decides she hates everyone there, she meets Sonia Jorgensen, a likeable woman who makes Liz feel a bit more at ease.
Sonia has a daughter, Kelsey that will be attending the same school where Liz is a high school counselor. Her daughter, Danielle will be a freshman there too. Sonia indicates that Kelsey is transferring schools because the kids at the other school were such bad influences. Liz and Sonia decide to introduce their daughters soon since they will be attending school together.
After the party Phil and Liz decide to have a swim in their backyard pool sans swimsuits. As they are enjoying their time together, Liz suddenly hears something and thinks she sees a flash. Suddenly feeling like someone is watching them, she gets out of pool to go inside. Phil tries to reassure her that their pool is hidden from view and that no one is there.
Was someone watching them?
The next day, Danielle returns from camp. Liz tells her that she is invited to a pool party at the Jorgensen home. Danielle is skeptical about meeting Kelsey, but ends up enjoying the party.
Danielle is a quiet and serious student and so far hasn’t been very involved with boys, parties etc. Kelsey looks like a model and acts like a 25-year-old adult. However, the girls become very close and soon Kelsey is spending every afternoon at their house. But it soon becomes clear that Danielle is not the only reason Kelsey wants to spend so much time in the McGinnis home.
Phil feels like the job at The Palms is perfect. It means regular hours, a steady income and of course the huge house. He knows that the buyers in the community will be high maintenance and require a lot of ass-kissing but he finds it easy enough to deal with.
That is until the day Kelsey Jorgensen comes into his office.
Liz starts to feel like everyone is keeping secrets. She feels like Danielle is changing rapidly and Phil seems to be a million miles away. Soon she’s second guessing everyone’s actions and has no idea what to believe.
Things are spiraling out of control.
The Palms neighborhood had a “Real Housewives” feel in some ways. Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous. The dynamics of the families in the community was interesting to say the least. Some of the people seemed unbelievable yet similar people do exist. I was a bit uncomfortable with a few parts and had a bit of an issue with some of the stereotyping and descriptions of people, especially teenagers. But I think it’s supposed to make us feel uncomfortable. Hard to explain without going into too much detail.
The story is told from both Liz and Phil’s point of view and alternating from past to present. The writing is fast-paced and gripping. I was constantly trying to figure out what the heck I would do in some of these situations. How I felt about some of the characters changed frequently. One moment I would feel sympathy for someone and the next completely ticked off at them. My thoughts were all over the place (kind of like this review….sorry!). I may not have liked many of the characters but I had to know what was going to happen next. Very frustrated that they weren’t listening to me!! (Yes I know that sounds crazy). Again I was talking out loud, throwing down my kindle (not too hard), picking it up again, and on until the very end….an end that I didn’t see coming.
This is first Paula Treick DeBoard book that I have read but I will definitely be looking into both her previous and upcoming books.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advanced copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.