50 Shades meets Gone Girl… no, really, this time.
Wowow. Where to begin? I’ve just finished The Girl Before and wanted to immediately run and write a review. It was just that good! I’ve had my eye on this one and when I saw that it was on NetGalley, I had to request it right away. It is a psychological thriller that has fallen into the category of “the next Gone Girl!” In this case, unlike The Girl in Cabin 10, The Woman Next Door, The Girl on the Train, etc…. I feel the comparison is warranted.
The Girl Before is told from two viewpoints, from Emma and Jane. The story centers on One Folgate Street, a state of the art minimalist house that was designed by an eccentric architect named Edward Monkford. The house has a lot of mystery surrounding it and if not for the stubbornness of the architect, it may have never been built. In order to move in, the tenant must sign off on and follow a list of over 200 rules, take a personality test, and interview with the architect himself. If you're able to suspend your disbelief, then this part of the plot works.
Emma is categorized as “Then” and Jane is the "Now". I thought the author did a nice job juxtaposing the two stories. You quickly find out that something terrible has happened to Emma, which is why Jane has the ability to move in in the first place. The stories are eerily similar. Both women have recently experienced trauma. Both have an immediate connection with the architect. Both start to fall under the spell of the home and subtly start to change. Then.... the stories diverge. As Emma's story unfolds, Jane uncovers clues that hint that something isn't quite right about this house, and I was racing through the chapters to figure out what actually went down. This book had me like NO!! THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE! DON’T OPEN THE DOOR! for parts of it. There was a definite creep factor.
Some of the criticism I’ve read so far from this book is from people wondering who would ever sign up for such strict criteria. To me, the story is plausible. Hell, rent is expensive.. More importantly, both women have recently had tragedies occur in their lives that would break anyone. People make a lot of extreme decisions when faced with tragedy, and we find out the two women don't necessarily make the best decisions in the first place.
My recommendation for this book comes with definite trigger warnings. I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot, but right from the first few chapters I had to take a break. The description of what the characters were going through was so vivid, and after finishing the book and reading the author’s note, it seems like the author has a personal connection to Jane’s story. The sadness she felt was especially palpable because of the authentic descriptions. The therapy scenes were also authentic. Jane eventually finds herself becoming obsessed with figuring out what happened to Emma, and I have to say I was surprised by the ending. Not so much by the end of the Emma chapters, but definitely by Jane's.
There is a 50 Shades feel to some of the parts that I could have done without. I started off liking both of the women, but by the end I was totally over one of them (it won't be hard to figure out who). In addition to everything else, there were a ton of moral dilemmas- medical malpractice, allegations of sexual abuse, abortion- but in the end all of the story becomes unpacked. It was very well written, especially from Jane’s perspective. There was a bit of an ambiguous ending that shocked me, so I'm excited for this book to be released so that I can talk about it with other people who've read it.
Fun fact- The Girl Before is going to be made into a movie directed by Ron Howard. I can’t wait to see what they do with the house! I picture Edward as Jude Law and Emily Blunt as Jane. I really hope they go more creepy, psychological thriller than 50 shades. Either way, get your hands on this book ASAP. It was released today!