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with malice: book review

26153925.jpgWith Malice / / 
by Eileen Cook

genre: YA Thriller

pages: 320, paperback (ARC-format)

rating: ★★★☆☆

publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers, June 7th, 2016

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It was the perfect trip…until it wasn’t.

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last six weeks should be. She discovers she was involved in a fatal car accident while on a school trip in Italy. A trip she doesn’t even remember taking. She was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident.

As the accident makes national headlines, Jill finds herself at the center of a murder investigation. It doesn’t help that the media is portraying her as a sociopath who killed her bubbly best friend, Simone, in a jealous rage. With the evidence mounting against her, there’s only one thing Jill knows for sure: She would never hurt Simone. But what really happened? Questioning who she can trust and what she’s capable of, Jill desperately tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

A big shoutout to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for sending me an ARC of With Malice!  

With Malice is a young adult thriller, though I wouldn’t personally call it a “thriller.”  I think of “thriller” as something more haunting and the send-chills-down-yo-spine type of vibe.  It was more of a drama-filled murder investigation with very many cliches.  The book started out quite well – I enjoyed the plot, the characters, and the mystery behind Simone’s death.  The build-up was gradual, and I enjoyed seeing Jill unravel the secrets that have haunt her ever since the accident.  But somewhere two-thirds into the book, things got sloppy.  I felt like the story was becoming rushed, and the ending seemed colossally abrupt.  Here’s the entire break-down of it:

  • The characters were “eh.”  At times, Jill became annoying, but I could deal with that. There’s nothing too special about each role.  I didn’t particularly love any of the characters, mainly because they remind 2D and black-and-white words on the page.    I liked seeing Jill find her past and her closure; with the pressure of the press saying she plotted her best friend’s murder, I must say she’s a strong heroine with her own flaws.  That type of stress can’t be easily ridden of.  She comes off as annoying at first as the rich, privileged daughter, yet she sort of seems to grow on you.  I also liked how there wasn’t a romantic interest.  It allows the reader to focus just on Jill’s storyline.  In a way, the characters aren’t memorable, but the story definitely is.
  • The writing was good.  It sucked me into the story with a snap of its fingers.  The author’s style really suited this type of storyline/genre, which I truly enjoyed.  In shorter remarks, the book was addictive.
  • The plot was well-written until the conclusion.  Again, it had a cliche-ish storyline with cliche subplots, but the way it was written got rid of those thoughts.  Though similar to other YA thrillers, With Malice was like a rubber band; the tension continued to grow and grow until the rubber band snapped at the climax, where Jill remembers what she has forgotten on her trip to Italy.  Near the end, though, I feel like the author was trying to be way too philosophical and tried to give the book a “deep” meaning.  That kind of annoyed me.  It contradicted with the mood Cook had originally set at the beginning at the book.  You start off with an enigmatic, eerie vibe that sets you on your toes and makes you question everything, and then it turns into a John Green novel at the end (I have nothing against John Green, FYI).  WHERE IS THE TRUE RESOLUTION?  Some of you guys may disagree with me, but I was so discontent and disappointed.  It’s less of the way it ended than the way it was lead into the ending.  If you think about a plot chart, it’s ordered in the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and ending.  It’s almost like someone took the falling action chunk out and threw it in the bin.  Jill’s epiphanies and realizations were extremely rushed.
  • I liked the text features where they would insert police interviews, recordings, IMs, Facebook posts etc.  It added to the tone of the book, and gave an interesting dynamic.  Also, that cover is an absolute tenner.  Look at how gorgeous it is even though it gives the book a contemporary vibe not a YA thriller!

So, yes, I give this book three stars.  I don’t ever usually give books below four stars, so this is a sad rating in my standards.  I’m not really sure if I’d recommend it to anyone unless you like dramatic murder cases and philosophical female leads.  With Malice is a debut novel from Eileen Cook, and if you have a taste for YA mysteries, I’d say you check it out!

Signing off after the beep,

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