The Playdate by Victoria Jenkins (2021) Review

When your past threatens your child’s future – can you really trust anyone?

Why I picked up the book:

Adele and Dani meet at a playgroup. Their children like each other. They become fast and unlikely friends – they don’t have a lot in common; Dani is single, living with her mom, struggling financially and young. Adele is unhappily married, wealthy, and older. But they both have something to hide.

Dani’s past comes back to haunt her first as she starts getting threatening e-mails and being cyberbullied. She leans on Adele for support, and together they try to figure out why Dani is being targeted. Adele’s home life seems to be far from the perfection she projects, but will she trust Dani?

When your past threatens your child’s future – can you really trust anyone?

The book through my criteria lens:

The Playdate was a solid book. It started off slow, but the suspense was built well and gradually. I loved how we were made to constantly doubt our gut instinct and were take many different directions before we got the final picture. The book’s brilliance was that Jenkins played utterly fair; she didn’t use any red herrings to deceive us. Instead, she opted for wonderfully dubious storytelling.

The pacing of the reveals was organic; not for a moment the narrative was held back or suffered in favour of shock value. Quite the opposite, reading The Playdate was like that visual puzzle we get a part of the picture at a time. With each pixel, the whole picture becomes more evident. Even if we guess the puzzle before the end, the final product is always more vivid and a worthy revelation in its own right.

Dani’s need for a more mature maternal figure was crucial to her character’s arc. I felt that Dani’s relationships with her mum and Adele were really well developed and their purpose respected. Jenkins captured the cattiness that can happen in playgroups really well; some people might be surprised at how competitive some mothers can be in such settings.

Although I enjoyed Jenkin’s depiction of the children – they felt natural, and I understand their importance to the plot. I just wish their development could have been pushed just a little further.

My personal feelings:

I enjoyed The Playdate; it was addicting and easy to get invested in. Jenkins masterfully built all her twists, and I appreciate how she chose to reveal them. Her timing was impeccable.

The Playdate pulls at my worst fears as a mother – I couldn’t bear it if anything I have ever done came back not only to haunt me but to harm my son. The way Jenkins described the mother-child relationships are relatable and easy to empathize with. We never know what measures we will take at desperate times until we need to act. I would have done some things differently than some characters. However, even at the height of my shock, horror, disapproval, and repulsion, I can still see the character’s motivation and relate to their pain.

I was particularly touched by the different ramifications grief can have in one’s life. Grief was present in more than one character’s development, and it affected each one differently. This literary choice was very insightful – to say more might spoil the book, so I apologize if I leave it at that.

Overall, I felt that Jenkins executed a psychological thriller brilliantly, and I will be picking up more of her books.

Enjoyability     8

Characters       8

Ambience        8

Fairness          10

Plot           8       

Execution    8   

My total rating: 4.16


Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Victoria Jenkins, Bookouture and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Playdate.

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