Reader Review: The Girl Before – J.P. Delaney

The Girl Before:  ★★★★

This is another book that was picked out and sent to me by my mother because she thought the premise was interesting and that I would find it somewhat entertaining. Never having heard of the book or the author before, I went into the story without even reading the blurb and just hoping my mother’s recommendation was going to live up to my rather minimal expectations. Once again, I was definitely not let down by my mother’s taste in books. This novel was a completely hectic ride and I wish I had heard of it sooner – it truly does deserve more exposure. 

The narrative of the book follows two main characters; Jane, whose story is set in the present, and Emma, whose story is set in the past. Due to their own personal issues, both women find themselves moving into the house of 1 Folgate Street which is designed to be completely minimalistic and, in order to live on the property, tenants must abide by a set of specific and non-negotiable terms. The book follows a non-linear layout, switching between Jane and Emma’s stories, to explore how the house and their relationship with the architect, Edward, change them as people and find themselves falling into lives that neither of them had imagined previously. Of course, Emma is no longer in the picture, though Jane begins to explore her past life and discovers startling similarities and uncovers unnerving secrets that leave more questions unanswered. 

From the very beginning of the book, the non-linear layout with the flashbacks and the changing chapters between past and present were immersive and interesting. The way that the book has been constructed definitely made me feel involved from the start. The difference in the writing style and tone between Emma and Jane’s separate excerpts is refreshing and creates a specific feel the book The conflicting tone makes a good dynamic which engages and maintains the interest of the audience effectively and makes them want to explore further. The different tones prevent the audience from getting confused between the storylines, so it’s easy to make sense of and generally easy to follow and get lost in. Throughout the entirety of the book, one of the biggest things that kept me interested was indeed the layout due to the fact that it was just so unlike what I was expecting of the book – even though, admittedly, I wasn’t expecting all that much. As well as this, the book is very descriptive from the first few lines which gives the readers the ability to visualise what the characters are seeing and, in a way, they can interact with the world as it’s being built up. 

The character building was also very quick to be introduced and, in turn, you want to find out the story behind the cast and discover how they came to be in their own particular situations. Both Jane and Emma clearly have depth – they’re interesting, they have detail and they have a history that’s still to found out, which prompts the reader to continue with the story overall. Even Edward’s character is developed in such a way that he actually feels like a threat to the reader themselves. Personally, I was very uncomfortable with how he came across and how he was portrayed because he felt three dimensional and real in an effective sense though maintained his individual controlling personality throughout the entire storyline as well. Because the characters and the situations are written so specifically and built up in a way that involves the audience so directly, the reader feels involved and can resonate with the emotions being conveyed. If a main character is threatened, the reader can pick up on that feeling by the changes in tone and pace of the book, which, again, further spurs on the audience to get through the story as fast as they can. 

As the plot expands and twists, it’s continuously riveting as it continuously expands. The character arcs and development are so well constructed that you can follow and see Jane and Emma getting more controlled – you can easily follow the development of the situation and yet the plot twists are still set out in a way that takes the reader off guard. It’s largely entertaining in an unnerving way and it’s written in such a style that the tone fits the entire premise and storyline of the novel. 

All that being said, due to my own personal life and my personal outlook, there were subjects in the book that I felt were handled in rather a ‘raw’ and clumsy footed way. This is due to my own sensitivity and, in a way, the topics made me uncomfortable just by being mentioned, though this was ineffective in adding to the appeal of the book as I don’t believe it was intended. However, putting that aside, I still wouldn’t say that the book is perfect, but it’s very well written. It’s obviously been developed to a large extent and carefully thought out and keeps the audience largely involved throughout the entire thing. 

To put it simply; The Girl Before was not at all what I was expecting, in a very good way. The novel is constructed in such an original and interesting way that keeps readers stuck to the page and keeps them wanting to discover more about the characters and the situations they find themselves in. It’s not perfect, but it’s been written incredibly well, and it’s no surprise that the book is soon to be turned into a film and will hopefully receive the attention it deserves.

Thanks for reading this short review and I’ll write you later. 

If you’re a fan of ‘Gone Girl’ and similar thrillers that take on a different tone but will keep you entertained with plot twists and unexpected revelations, then definitely pick up a copy of this book. 

If you’re not sure whether the premise sounds interesting to you but you want a book that’s going to introduce a different layout and tone, give this one a go. The tone and writing style is refreshing, imaginative, and descriptive, and all the more appealing. 

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