Review: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Summary: One night, Mia Dennett enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn’t show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. At first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life.

When Colin decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota instead of delivering her to his employers, Mia’s mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop a t nothing to find them. But no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family’s world to shatter.

Genre: mystery, thriller

The Good Girl is maybe one of the worst books I’ve ever read, and there’s a lot to unpack here. Other readers have given this four stars, and while it seems like such a dramatic difference compared to how I feel about it, I will say I understand why some people liked this book. It wasn’t completely terrible at times. However, a majority of the problems lie in the very last chapter of the book.

I’ll be up front: there is absolutely nothing rewarding or redeeming about this story. The summary gives away the entire plot of the book. Mia meets a stranger at a bar, and he kidnaps her. That’s it, that’s the entire book. The worst part is that this book is split into two timelines. The first is of Mia meeting and being kidnapped by Colin, and the second is after Mia has been recused and returned home. So from almost the first chapter, we know the entire story already. There’s no real suspense, because we know that Mia survives and gets to go home. There’s supposed to be some mystery around why Mia was kidnapped, and of course the other characters are all dodgy with questionable backgrounds to lead the reader astray, but I predicted it from fairly early on.

The chapters about Mia’s kidnapping are told in third-person omniscient, through the eyes of Colin, her kidnapper. Because these two are total strangers, it makes it difficult to ever sympathize with Mia for what she’s going through. Colin initially doesn’t care about her at all, so why should the reader? Even as their relationship builds, Mia comes off as a very one-dimensional character, because we’re learning about her the same time that Colin is. Also it never once left my mind that she was developing Stockholm Syndrome, so their relationship was always disgusting and creepy. I think that was the point, but because it was told through Colin’s perspective, it felt even more disturbing. I will give credit to the author for that, as he was not necessarily a deep character, but a well-written one. Colin clearly saw himself as a victim as well, so while we gain his understanding and side of the story, he is still very much a villain here. I couldn’t help but see the similarities between him and Joe from You.

As I mentioned, the entire plot is given away in the first few chapters, which made for an insanely dry, slow story. I didn’t care about Colin and Mia hiding out in the woods, wondering how they would survive the winter, because I knew they would. I didn’t care about the detective trying to find them, because I knew eventually he would. There was no real tension or suspense here, which made it extremely boring. When I read the final chapter, I wasn’t surprised in the slightest by the big “twist.” This book is filled with clichés and every trope in the mystery genre, so even that was boring. The twist also created even more plot holes, but of course the author neglected those in order to make for a dramatic ending.

I mentioned that the majority of the problems occurred in the final chapter of the book, and while yes, the twist was completely lackluster, that wasn’t the worst part. The author snuck in a line or two in the beginning of the story that didn’t sit well with me. One of them was about an “ethnic” area of a city being nearly half-white, and how that made it safe to walk around at night. If the area was “largely African American” then it was a “hellhole.” At the time reading these, I wasn’t sure why they existed (or why an editor or publisher let them through), but I admittedly shrugged them off.

Then we hit the final chapter, and this was where the author’s real feelings came out. Mia walks into a bar, stating the place was “a hole in the wall,” a building covered in graffiti, and of course, she saw she was “the only one who was white.” Within a span of four pages, it’s mentioned a second time, that “nearly everyone there, except for a twentysomething waitress in jeans and a too-tight shirt, was male; all, besides me, were black.” Mia is then introduced to a Somali character. It’s worth mentioning that he’s the only Black character in the entire story, and of course he’s the villain, a cliched mobster kind of guy. When she meets him, she describes him as follows:

“His eyes were black, like coal, his skin dark and rubbery, like tires. 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.” It was disgusting to read, to compare a Black man to bears or killer whales. I understand the implication the author was going for, that he reminded her of the most dangerous, predatory animals and could rip her to shreds, but this was not the way to go about that, especially after making him Black. Comparing his skin to rubber tires or was truly awful, and I can’t tell you how many times in those few pages that she mentions “his anthracite eyes, his black serpentine eyes, his unforgiving black eyes.” Again, I understand what she was going for here, that there was a darkness or coldness behind his eyes, as he’s a killer, but there were so many other, non-racist ways to go about describing the character.

This book is also littered with the idea that all girls grow up into women who think motherhood is their sole purpose in life, and there’s a huge anti-abortion essay in here (the daughter is raped by her kidnapper, and her parents refuse the option of abortion because they think it’s morally wrong), so I’m honestly not surprised here, but goddamn. I’ve read other books by the author and have always found them lackluster, so I have zero remorse about saying this will be the last thing I ever read by this author.

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