23 August 2019
WOW! What an emotionally charged thriller this is, in the end, somewhat heartbreaking. BEST FRIENDS FOREVER is the first book by Dawn Goodwin I have read and it won't be my last. I really enjoyed the emotional roller-coaster I was on with Anna and Vicky throughout that I wasn't sure where or how it was going to end.
Before I go any further, I MUST state that there are a couple of triggers that may effect some.
So where do I start? BEST FRIENDS FOREVER is the story of the lifelong toxic friendship between Vicky and Anna as they grow from teenagers into women now approaching their 40s. Given that they were 13 in 1986 my rough estimate is that they were 39 at the climax surrounding the London Olympics in 2012. Having been friends since high school, I really couldn't understand how such a friendship could really stand the test of time. But they are completely co-dependent on each other and as they grew older, so they continued to be.
Anna is, to put it bluntly, a bitch. She is devious, manipulative and always craves attention - none of which she gets at home. As an only child, her parents are distant but rich. Her mother is a flaky alcoholic while her father is a habitual philandering womaniser.
Vicky is the complete opposite of Anna. She is quiet, meek, insecure and submissive - perfect for Anna to control. And Vicky allows it because she couldn't bear to lose the one and only person who has ever loved her. So desperate for love are both of these girls/women that they are willing to do almost anything to maintain it. There couldn't be anything more toxic.
The story begins with Vicky pondering recent events when she receives a phone call from David, Anna's husband, to say that Anna is dead. Vicky is shocked and devastated to lose the one person who knew and loved her. But did she really? Honestly? Could what they have had really be called "love"? There are times I'm sure she hated Anna but at the same time she couldn't be without her. They were like a drug to each other. It was pretty toxic.
So in the aftermath of Anna's death, David is struggling to cope. His world has fallen from beneath him and he spends his days in an abyss of grief. His mother Louise stays with him for a few weeks to help him get back on his feet but there comes a point when David must learn to pick up the pieces himself and move on - for the sake of their children, Harper and Lewis. But David is still struggling to keep things together and when Vicky stops by to see how they are doing she finds the house littered with takeaway containers and dirty dishes with the children glued to the TV, amusing themselves, and David lost in a void amidst it all.
Vicky takes charge and moves in with them to bring order back into the children's lives while David goes back to work. He finds that Vicky's presence is a Godsend as she manages to keep the place going, the children happy and everyone fed - something he struggled to do. He is so impressed he ends up asking her to to stay on as the children's nanny, for which he would pay her, as they adore her and he admits that he use the help. It's the perfect solution for everyone. Or is it?
It's no secret that Anna liked everything to be perfect. She wanted the perfect life, the perfect husband, to live in a perfect house with the perfect children and have the perfect job. She worked hard to make this happen so everything would remain...perfect. So when she died suddenly, Anna's perfect life ended...leaving Vicky with the chance to have a taste of that perfect life she left behind.
But Anna was far from perfect. She was a complete bitch that had me twisted in knots throughout most of the story. A despicable person, I felt nothing but contempt for her. She was an entitled narcissist who was so obviously a sociopath. She had no remorse for anything she did or who she hurt, trampling over anyone to get what she wanted. To her, their feelings were not her problem. Even as a wife and mother, Anna was bored. She just could not see how lucky she was...because she wanted more. And what Anna wanted, Anna got. But what made me hate Anna even more was her brutal attack on her mother's cat in such an uncontrollable rage that Vicky had to stop her. But it was too late...and Anna still didn't care.
My heart ached for Vicky. I could relate to her and identify with some aspects of her personality as a quiet, meek and somewhat insecure young girl who just ached to be loved. So low is her self worth that even when she has been wronged she will still apologise and blame herself. Her young life goes from one trauma to another as she just yearns for acceptance. And when abuse she endures at home becomes too much to bear, Anna hatches a sinister plan to help Vicky escape. But it came with a cost which bound Vicky in a whole new way to Anna, who never missed the chance to hold it over her whenever she wanted Vicky to do her bidding.
This manipulation extends into their adulthood and made me just loathe Anna. Many may not like Vicky because she could appear weak when succumbing to Anna at almost every whim...and when she didn't, Anna would sulk and remind her of that one thing from her past. As if Anna herself was completely guiltless. However, if Anna did anything she taught Vicky how to be deceitful and manipulative...and this plays out in the days, weeks and months after Anna's death rather brilliantly as Vicky becomes too close, too obsessed and too desperate for that perfect life. Has she slipped up? Has she gone too far? Either way, still haunted by the secrets of her past, she continues to be influenced by Anna's transgressions.
BEST FRIENDS FOREVER is cleverly written in the past and present as we witness the evolution of their friendship, with a rather dexterous touch included in the form of letters to Anna from Vicky in the present day. Since no one else knew each other as well as they did it was rather ingenious of the author to have Vicky confide in Anna once again, despite the fact she would never read them.
This toxic tale from start to finish is both intriguing and chilling that hynotises the reader, as Anna and Vicky both play with fire and we simply can't look away. With secrets and lies, toxicity and drama, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER is fast paced, gripping and unputdownable.
But the question remained...who wanted to kill Anna?
The only problem I had with this book was the end. Oh, it was satisfactory but it did leave you with questions...and I like things tied up in a nice little ending. This...well, it was different...an ending with a twist. It wasn't a bad ending but, for me, it wasn't perfect.
I wasn't sure what I expected when I dived into this book, but it wasn't this! I had heard mixed reviews about it so therefore I expected it to be mediocre but it was anything but! I loved it and loved to hate Anna! The more I read, the more I hated her. And the more I hated her, the more I wanted Vicky to have the last laugh. But does she? Grab yourself a copy, read it and find out! You know you want to.
4.5 stars - due to poor Murphy and the "OK-but-not-perfect" ending.
I would like to thank #DawnGoodwin, #NetGalley and #Aria for an ARC of #BestFriendsForever in exchange for an honest review.