Maybe it's my love of the macabre or perhaps I watched one too many episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark as a child, but the premise of this book really caught my attention.
It's been twelve years since Beth has seen her best friend Flora, their friendship seemingly dissipating without giving Beth a solid reason. A chance encounter, Beth sees Flora and her two kids outside their old family home--but the kids don't appeared to have aged a single day.
How can two kids look exactly the same as they did twelve years ago?
So, obviously, my mind went right to vampires. What other logic is there? Oddly enough, that's reason is never investigated by Beth and her family--I know, shocking--but they spend a great portion of the book trying to sleuth out the cause of this anomaly. The more dedicated to their amateur investigation they become, the deeper the conspiracy seems to go, and Beth finds herself not only questioning what she knows, but everything she assumed for the past twelve years.
It sounds interesting. And parts of this really hit me in the heart. Losing a best friend sometimes is harder than losing a love, but we're not expected to mourn a friend's break-up. Beth's struggle with losing her best friend and never really knowing why--that is the best part of this book. It's raw and real and rang so true.
Everything else I had a reallllly hard time with. First, even if I'm devastated about not knowing the reason why my friendship has ended, I can't imagine becoming obsessed with figuring out why her two children look exactly the same. And Beth goes to some extravagant lengths to find the truth. Ringing neighbors. Showing up at various elementary schools around the area--going so far as to interview one of the secretaries for information. Going to the police. Showing up at her friend's place of employment. Tracking down her parents three hours away. It's extreme and never really given the justification for motivation. She sees these kids from a car and is automatically convinced they are the same two kids sans age shift. It doesn't make sense, and it still doesn't make sense to me.
Things escalated quickly.
From quirky question to full-on conspiracy, things go from 0 to 800 really fast. Beth flies to America to find the truth--which, again, what--and in less than a day finds herself facing death. The ending, then, is jam-packed with ridiculous revelations, showing that Flora is really the victim of prolonged emotional, mental, and physical abuse by her husband. I wanted so much to feel for her character. After the entire journey from lie to truth, I wanted that moment to be cathartic, but by that point, I was just exhausted from suspending all of my disbelief. Do people get involved with another person only to find who they fell for was an act? Absolutely. Can there be extreme circumstances? Yes, of course. But the unraveling of the tale felt simultaneously hyperbolic and shallow.
Overall, Perfect Little Children was a book not so much about the children, but the lengths one person will go to find the truth.