BWW Review: THE GIRL BEFORE by J.P. Delaney

BWW Review: THE GIRL BEFORE by J.P. Delaney

"Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life."

~THE GIRL BEFORE by J.P. Delaney

BWW Review: THE GIRL BEFORE by J.P. Delaney
US Cover

First there was GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn. Then there was THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins. Now, the big thriller to pick up is THE GIRL BEFORE by debut author J.P. Delaney. This 2017 release has been heavily promoted and is already set to be a movie directed by Ron Howard.

The book has two intriguing, engaging tagline, depending on which edition you've picked up:

"Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life."

(US Edition)

and

"Everything that's yours was once hers."

(UK Edition)


What if you were offered the house of a lifetime--at a stellar low rent you could afford--if only you went Super Minimalist and cut all but the necessities from your life? Could you enjoy such a lifestyle, or would it begin to take a toll on you?

It is told through the perspectives of two women: Emma, who lived at One Folgate Street until her too-early death, and Jane, the current inhabitant of One Folgate Street. When Jane finds out that the tenant before died in residence, she starts digging into the past. Did Emma go crazy due to the crazy rules that come with renting such an unusual establishment, or was something more sinister at play? Is history doomed to repeat itself, or can Jane breathe easy as she goes through her daily routine?

Both women take an in-depth survey asking them questions that range from obligatory to invasive before being granted interviews and then having their application to live at One Folgate Street granted. The house is an architectural marvel that has put its designer, Edward Monkton, on the map and given him international success. He's an extreme perfectionist and has an insane amount of rules for anyone who lives in the house he built and rents out. Furniture can't be moved or altered. Nothing can be left on the floor or out in the open. Frequent surveys must be taken before equipment such as the shower will turn on. But the house is a novelty that will change the future of how we live. It can regulate temperature, water use, and even monitor one's health.

Emma moved into One Folgate Street with her boyfriend Simon after a horrible burglary that leaves her scared and feeling unsafe. She soon breaks up with Simon and enters into a relationship with Edward. Jane, on the other hand, is unattached when she meets Edward, but still shaken from a miscarriage that caused her to quit her job and switch to social work. She too enters a relationship with Edward, not knowing he'd be involved with the house's previous tenant as well, or realizing that both women look a lot alike..and both look a lot like Edward's deceased ex-wife as well...

The Girl Before UK
UK Cover

THE GIRL BEFORE tries really hard to be a psychological thriller that can rival GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN in both popularity and success. All three books have the hallmark of having untrustworthy narrators, multiple suspicious secondary characters, and, at times, unlikable women. These elements seem to be fast becoming a staple of the genre. THE GIRL BEFORE takes it a step further and tries to mix in some of the success from the Fifty Shades of Gray franchise, adding some sexual deviance to the mix. Plus, I still can't see the name Edward without thinking about Twilight. The book also seems to be inspired by the recent trend to go minimal, such as is explored in Marie Condo's THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP. Hurdling so many genres, the novel at time struggles to find itself and decide on what it ultimately wants to be.

I wasn't as invested in this one as I have been other psychological thrillers. While, at first, I was glad that Emma was likable compared to some female main characters I've read in this genre previously, I knew not to get too attached because something horrible was likely going to happen to her. Jane, on the other hand, started out a little more impersonal and remote, harder to identify with, though she opened up as the novel continued. Interestingly, I changed a lot of my initial impressions of both women as their stories continued, and while I guessed a lot of the book's surprise twists, I'm still uncertain whether I enjoyed or disliked the ultimate direction of the book. But I felt that way with GONE GIRL and GIRL ON THE TRAIN, too. I love the mystery and the thrill of discovery. I want to know what is happening. I can't turn away from the crime in a sick, twisted way because I want to know the truth. But...I also don't quite enjoy myself because I can't connect enough with the characters and their lives. I get that everything has to be impersonal, to an extent, in order to make readers second-guess everyone and everything and discredit the narrators, but it's harder for me to root for characters when I can't easily fall into their emotions and lives.

One of the most compelling aspects of this novel, for me, was One Folgate Street itself. The house is crazy unique and out there. I could never live in a place like that. (For one thing, one of the "house rules" is that "Books Are Not Allowed." NO BOOKS!? I would have to at least sneak in an e-reader!) I am definitely not a minimalist. I definitely collect all kinds of things and packrat my way through life. But the house's technology is really cool. Blinds and curtains are unnecessary because the glass is tempered and the house controls how much light is allowed through depending on the time of day. You don't need to worry about putting in air conditioners every summer because everything is built in and controlled there, too. The house can even tell how healthy and happy you are. And house keys? Unnecessary! All you need is the app on your smartphone with the special password and you're good to go. (Better hope your cellphone battery isn't dead or you're out of luck!) For as cool as all the tech is, it's also a little scary. If tales such as 1984 by George Orwell and its emphasis on Big Brother or Dave Eggers' THE CIRCLE (Soon to be a movie starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson) and its micro-watched communities have taught us anything, it's that technology can be scary. It can be used against us. THE GIRL BEFORE adds its own voice to this and is, in a way, yet another cautionary tale about the technology that makes our lives easier.

As with all the books in this genre, this is either going to be one you love or hate! There's always so little in-between when it comes to psychological thrillers. You either love the book or you want to chuck it across the room. If you've been looking for a novel in the genre that experiments more with other genres, this is the new release for you!

***THE GIRL BEFORE by J.P. Delaney was released on January 24, 2017 from Ballantine Books // Random House.

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More From This Author

Bonnie Lynn Wagner Bonnie Lynn Wagner has been a reader for as long as she can remember. Friends frequently come to her for book recommendations, and eventually, she decided to start reviewing books in order to share her love of them with everyone! While her favorite genre is fantasy, she reads and reviews many others, from contemporary novels to juvenile picture books.

When she isn't reviewing books, you can find her on Twitter @abackwardsstory talking about musicals, nail polish, and Disney, among other things!

She continues to review at http://abackwardsstory.blogspot.com if you'd like even more book recommendations!