|This article is about the first book in The Perfectionists series. You may be looking for the TV series or book group of the same name.|
|“||You don't have to be good to be perfect.||”|
— Quote of the Book
The Perfectionists is the first book of the duology of the same name, written by Sara Shepard. The book chronicles the story of five girls with nothing in common but a desire to strive for perfection. But to be perfect, one has to have a good alibi than to fall for a misplaced implication.
Back Cover Summary
Ava, Caitlin, Mackenzie, Julie, and Parker are all driven to be perfect—no matter the cost. At first, the girls think they have nothing in common until they discover that they all hate the same person: handsome womanizer Nolan Hotchkiss, who's done things to hurt each of them. They come up with the perfect plan to murder Nolan—jokingly, of course. They'd never actually go through with it. But when Nolan turns up dead in the exact way they'd discussed, the girls suddenly become prime suspects in his murder. Only, they didn't do it. So who did? Unless they find the real killer, and soon, their perfect lives will come crashing down around them.
In Detail Summary
Parker, Ava, Caitlin, Julie, and Mackenzie are all at Nolan Hotchkiss' house for the biggest party of the year, only in their different social circles with their respective friends. All voice their distaste and hatred for Nolan, until Mackenzie gets a text from her new friend Caitlin. All five girls meet up after the text. Mackenzie can't believe they're going to do what they're going to do next. Caitlin asks if she's backing out, but Mackenzie and the other girls say no. They look at the crowd, where Nolan is greeting his guests heartily and already playing with girls' hearts. "Let's do this," Ava says as the five girls head towards Nolan.
The party continued to rage throughout the night. But the morning after, Nolan is discovered dead in the upper floor by a junior. EMTs and their respective ambulances, along with law enforcement arrive. Later, Nolan's parents arrive as well, but by then everyone in the town knows about Nolan's death, and it is assumed he died partying hard. The girls, however, are shocked - Julie's throat closed, Ava was in a state of denial, Mackenzie burst into tears while Caitlin felt sorry for his family, and Parker went to the docks to stare at the water.
Five days later, Parker arrived to school, frustrated and in disgust at the small acts of fakeness and perfection. Julie arrives, reminding Parker of the mandatory assembly in the auditorium. The two girls head to the auditorium, where Nolan's memorial is being held. The three other girls are present but sitting separately. They all share a look when Parker looks up at the presentation slides ahead, realizing this was also going to be a drug and bullying presentation. Parker is enraged that people are crying over Nolan's death despite everyone having hated him. After a wave of memories when she and Nolan were friends, she begins to experience another migraine. Julie, sensing what's wrong, takes her to the box office alcove to help clear her state of mind. She gives Parker some pills and recommends seeing a therapist. Parker doesn't want to, but Julie says she spoke with someone about her mom. Parker, realizing how serious she is, reluctantantly agrees. She heads out to her usual smoking place, but Mr. Granger finds her, noting he didn't take her for a smoker. Angered once more, she leaves, but not before feeling another migraine coming and mentally agreeing to see a therapist.
At the annual boys-girls varsity soccer match, Caitlin and her teamates are strategizing when Josh Friday, Caitlin's boyfriend, comes up behind her, interrupting Caitlin's focus. She thinks of how they've literally been together their whole lives, and how that continue into their future. She's snapped out of her thoughts when a teammate reminds her of her brother's death and overheard someone discussing the possibility that Nolan committed suicide. Ursula Winters, Caitlin's biggest rival, interjects and begins to badmouth Nolan, subliminally taunting Caitlin to speak up on how much she hated Nolan. Caitlin, having had enough of this conversation, loudly demands everyone to focus, and the game begins. However, Ursula steals the ball from Caitlin, who furiously trips her. She's barred from the game and leaves when Josh timidly approaches her to see how she's doing. When gazing through the windows of the computer lab her brother Taylor frequented, she demanded Josh to take her to the cemetery to visit her brother. Having a conversation with him about Nolan's death and a small description of what happened that night, she is surprised by Jeremy Friday, Josh's younger brother who routinely comes to visit Taylor. He sets some Dragon-Ball-Z figurines on his grave, and offers Caitlin an invitation to watch the series with him. Caitlin, grateful at someone else who shares her grief and kindest towards Taylor, hugs him.
Mackenzie is hitching a ride with her best friend (and not-so-secret rival) Clair Coldwell's car, which Claire begins to lament on how awful Nolan's death was. Mackenzie, already in a state of pressure from the constant reminder of Nolan everywhere, wants to change the subject, and asks about her music schedule. Claire responds her audition is an hour earlier than Mac's, thus making her first. Mac stays stoic as Claire stops at Cupcake kingdom, where Blake Strustek, Claire's boyfriend and Mackenzie's best friend, works at. She greets him, and he takes her to the back room where the storage - and his violin is. She asks him where the rest of his band is at, but he resounds that they are all busy - thus leaving her alone with Blake for the first time since he began dating Claire. Mackenzie, fueled her memories of being taken advantaged by Nolan, plays her piece beautifully, is applauded by Blake. Looking away, he tells her he notices they way she reverts to her shy self despite playing so confidently. Blushed and slightly flustered, he inches his way close to her, takes off her glasses, and kisses her. Their tender moment is interrupted by Claire calling, and Mac quickly bolts out of there, realizing she liked the kiss.
Ava arrives just in time to her film studies class, and cracks a joke that her teacher Mr. Grainger lets slide. He introduces a new unit and hands out some graded papers. Ava receives hers back - she's gotten a C. She's shocked, until she remembers she wrote her paper after she lured Nolan upstairs at the party. Her boyfriend Alex asks what he got, but Mr. Grainger silences the tangent conversation and announces a new project with new group members. Ava sees relief on her group partners Julie and Mackenzie's faces.
Julie arrives at another party, her signature fake smile on but concerned with the dark secret she's holding. As the dutiful but kind Queen Bee, she greets everybody until Ashley Ferguson appears, Julie's own wannabe. Julie's friends Nyssa pulls her away, and Julie notices that Caitlin, Ava, and even Mackenzie are here with their respective groups of friends. Nyssa asks Julie if she's seen the photos of Nolan, with his dead body riddled with all sorts of names. Julie, not wanting to talk about Nolan, turns around abruptly and is accident splashed beer on by Carson Wells, an attractive student from Australia having trouble finding his place in Beacon. Julie and him chit-chat about California, where Julie came from, reminding Julie of her home life and Parker's. Her thoughts drift to where they watched a movie in their film studies class, where she first met the other four girls albeit awkwardly. They discuss the film and how their characters got what they deserved in the ending. Parker, who never spoke in class, chimes in and says the judge was right in that people served to be punished. Julie, shocked that Parker spoke but not wanting her to go back to her shell, speaks up and says Parker's dad would be first on her list for casting Parker's accident. Each of the girls stiffen, but they continue talking about those who've wronged them until Caitlin darkly says she would want Nolan gone. The girls agree, and joke about drugs that could easily kill him.
She's brought back to reality when Carson and her exchange cheers for their drinks, until a police conference about Nolan's death on TV catches her attention. She finds the remote and turns the volume on and the party is interrupted, and the partygoers, including the five girls, are shocked when the police chief announces Nolan's death wasn't an accidental overdose - it was a homicide. Someone had killed him.
The girls gather at Nolan's packed funeral, sure that their direct actions that night couldn't have killed Nolan. That night, one by one, they gathered in a bathroom to start their master plan for revenge, where they spiked a cup of beer with an Oxytocin's pill Caitlin supplied. They spat in it for good measure, and Ava went downstairs to supply Nolan with the drink. He took it without question, as the four girls watched from above. As Ava entices Nolan, they began to head upstairs, with Nolan looking quite drunk already. Ava lays him on his bed and continues to distract Nolan, but he already notices the other girls peering at him from the doorway. He mumbles something about each one of them but he passes out. Mackenzie takes out some colored Sharpies, and her, Caitlin, and Julie write on him. They try to assure themselves that the one pill couldn't;t have killed him, and begin naming off other possible suspects. They begin to freak out as the true guilt crashed on them, until Julie announces that they pretend it never happens. Mac asks if they should lie, which Julie confirms. Ava begins to ask if they're going to the reception afterwards, and its agreed they should go for the sake of appearances. Parker suddenly has another migraine, and Julie leads her away. She wants to go home but convinces Julie to go - and leave her worrying to herself.
Mackenzie is currently in her music hall, feverishly playing but distracted. Her teacher notes that she's a half a beat off, much to her surprise. Claire, in an unusually genuine act of true kindness, hands her a bag of gummies shaped like violins, her favorite snack. The class is suddenly interrupted by two detectives in suits, looking for more information on the party the other night. One of them announces that he will pass out cards and asks the students to write the alphabet in capital letters in one side and their names on the other. Mackenzie, shaking with nervousness as she realizes they want a handwriting sample, makes sure to slant her letters as the detectives gather their cards and leave their information on the board for tips. She suddenly finds her hand gripped by Claire's, who looks guilt-ridden for some odd reason. Mackenzie then recipes a text from Blake, asking to meet up, and deletes it, vowing to become a better person.
Caitlin arrives back at her house to retrieve her soccer cleats for practice, when she notices Ursula lying on television about Nolan being a good friend, despite having previously expressed her anger at him. Caitlin in enraged, only to be caught by her mom Sibyl. Caitlin tells her mother her disgust with Nolan, to which Sybil understands. She tells her daughter about her own time in high school, where she was bullied for being gay. She says she once get revenge on one of her tormentors, and felt immediately bad afterwards. Caitlin, racked with guilt with Nolan's death, leaves to her care, only it fails to start. She calls Josh, only to be sent to voicemail, but then is called back by Jeremy. He offers her a ride on his old scooter, to which he accepts. She remembers back when he first got it, and laughed with Josh as he ridiculed his younger brother. When she arrives at practice, she finds herself almost kissed by Jeremy, but is interrupted by another team member.
Ava and her boyfriend Alex are later seen cuddling on a couch, until Alex receives a call from his parents and realizes he stayed out too late. He mentions Ava's paper, and she tells him she'll talk to Mr. Grainger about changing it. Alex, looking away, asks if that's a good idea, but backtracks and leaves. Ava's father comes down, assured by Ava that everything is alright. She goes to the kitchen for some water, but is surprised by her drunk stepmother, Leslie. She doesn't want Alex to come anymore, and mentions she's heard the rumors of Ava's increased GPA, started by Nolan after their breakup about how she slept with teachers to boost her grades. She's shamefully reminded on how she seduced Nolan the night of his death. Ava, defeated, says she won't bring her boyfriend over anymore, much to her stepmother's delight.
Julie, in her spotless room and in the middle of keeping up with her social life, is suddenly called by her sick-sounding mother. Nyssa, whose on the phone, asks who it is, and Julie lies that it's her cleaning lady. The phone calls ends, and Julie opens her bedroom door to a cluttered, dirty hallway and makes her way to the kitchen. Her mother asks her to run some errands, and Julie, in a forced state of calm, eventually snaps at her mother and calls Parker, asking her to shop. They go to Julie's favorite store - a secondhand store where she's able to afford designer brands. Julie starts gesturing clothes to Parker, but she's interested in a bracelet. They walk out together, until they're confronted by Nyssa and another girl. Julie, flabbergasted, notices Parker is gone.
Parker arrives at her appointment with the Reddings' shrink, Dr. Elliot Fielder. He squints at her, and mentions that Julie said she'd be coming. She walks into his office, and snaps at him to stop staring at her and the scars on her face. Dr. Fielder says he doesn't see any scars. He says Julie is worried for her, but Parker defiantly says she's tough and can take care of herself. He gets her to admit her dad used to abuse her, and Dr. Fielder mentions an attack, a turning-point. Parker, angered at Julie for selling her out, admits about coming home late the night of Nolan's party, and receiving a beating from her father in a fit of rage. She also mentions being given an Oxy pill from Nolan that night. They about about Nolan for a bit, and Dr. Fielder says Parker isn't damaged. - she has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and promises they'll work through her trauma.
Mackenzie arrives at Blake's
The book contains thirty-seven chapters, as well as an epigraph, prologue and a pre-chapter "Five days later" at the beginning of the book. At the back of the book, it contains an excerpt, prologue, and first two chapters from the sequel, The Good Girls.
With perfection comes pressure. Students here are some of the best in the country, and sometimes, they have to let off a little steam. What five girls don’t know, though, is that steam can scald just as badly as an open flame. - Excerpt
I mean, that's where you're going with this, aren't you? Just because we rattled off some names doesn't mean we have any control over them dying or going missing or whatever. - Caitlin to the other Perfectionists