The Perfect Neighborhood by Liz Alterman

Welcome to Oak Hill, the latest suburban neighbourhood brought to life by reigning champ, Liz Alterman, who masterfully sets the landscape in this completely addictive read.


When actress and model Allison Langley leaves her former rock star husband, Christopher, in the middle of the night, it’s all her Oak Hill neighbours can talk about. The gossip comes to an abrupt halt when five-year-old Billy Barnes goes missing on his walk home from kindergarten.
Billy’s mother, Rachel, blames herself for being at work and letting her only child walk alone. Cassidy, Billy’s teenage babysitter, was also late to arrive the afternoon he disappeared and blames herself.

As the clock ticks down, police are unable to find any trace of Billy, forcing Rachel to ponder the enemies she’s made in their well-off suburb. Could it be one of her neighbours who stole her son? Would they abduct Billy to hurt her? How easy would it be to take a child while the parents or nannies are distracted?

When another child goes missing, the town is put under a microscope as the police try to get to the bottom of the disappearances. Will they be able to find the two children, or will it be too late? What secrets lie at the heart of this tragedy, and how far will one go to keep those dangerous secrets buried?

What I thought

This book seized my attention the moment I read the blurb. The mysterious disappearance of Allison Langley and the abduction of Billy Barnes intrigued me from the very beginning. And Oak Hill was the perfect setting for it. 

Alterman's visual descriptors of Oak Hill were enough to transport me there. If I closed my eyes, I could see myself stepping out of one of the many Range Rovers lining Cherry Lane and admiring the enormous Colonial style homes.

I can even imagine Phil Foster on the corner with binoculars slung around his neck, and Betsy Gallagher (the Bree Van de Kamp of Oak Hill) dropping off a casserole somewhere along the street.

My stroll would bring me past the park, which is buzzing with energy, a place where dogs run free and children play under the watchful eyes of helicopter parents. I would hear the lake running, crickets chirping, and gossip flowing, spreading around the town like wildfire. A closer look, and I could even see a member of the Mommy Mafia peeping through her shutters. 

Alterman makes Oak Hill sound so appealing; a neighborhood that anyone would kill to live in. This is a place where dreams come true and families flourish. Who wouldn't want to live here?

The reader is introduced to many characters throughout the book, yet Liz manages to keep them all in check, and we never really lose track of them. Each character seemed to have a purpose, and every detail had been put into play for a reason. 

Readers come to realize that not only are there two missing children in Oak Hill, but there is so much else bubbling beneath the surface that keeps them engaged. They'll wonder, why did Allison Langley leave in the middle of the night? Where was the babysitter? And why is Rachel Barnes' husband Ted not involved? Just a few questions that'll nibble away at you.

If you're like me, you'll also jump to conclusions as suspicions rise at various points throughout. What's everyone hiding? Still, the main question remains, who did abduct Billy Barnes and Amy-Pat? 

Alternative perspectives and guessing games add thrills from start to finish and will keep readers on edge. Alterman kept me guessing until final few chapters. The novel has immaculate pacing, and a fantastic cast of characters. I'd pay to stream this.

Not to mention, Oak Hill is suburbia on steroids, which I loved

Alterman is clearly a natural wordsmith, and her strong writing and narrative will carry readers through to the end. Despite having visitors the week I read, I couldn’t put it down, and found myself sneaking reads whenever I could.

So, how well do you know your neighbours?

Liz Alterman by Gracemarie Photography

Liz Alterman is the author of a young adult novel, He’ll Be Waiting. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, and other outlets. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and three sons where she spends most days microwaving the same cup of coffee and looking up synonyms. When she isn’t writing, she’s reading.

The Perfect Neighborhood is available for order in hardcover format at Indigo and in e-book format at Kobo. Check Penguin Random House Canada for additional retailers.

**note to readers, I use the Canadian/English spelling of neighbour(hood), whilst this title is American.