I was approved for an e-ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. A huge thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Publishing for allowing me the opportunity to read this book in advance.
Two girls, a summer in Italy, and a car accident that left Jill Charron’s best friend Simone dead. The problem is that Jill can’t remember anything about this accident, or even the few weeks leading up to the tragedy. Jill wakes up in a hospital, injured and with no memory of the past six weeks. Her mother won’t let her text her friends or watch the television, and when a lawyer hired by her affluent father comes into the picture, Jill realizes that the world may believe that the accident wasn’t just an accident. What if something more sinister was at play? Jill must trudge through the muddiness in her own head and try to figure out what happened between the two friends; she must try to remember the truth, all while she is bombarded with doubts about herself, her life and what happened this summer.
With Malice is an extraordinarily captivating read. From the first few pages, Cook draws her reader in with easy-to-follow writing, a good pace, and a character that is both likable and unreliable at the same time. She alternates between narration and snippets of articles, blog post comments, and police files to paint a picture of a crime scene that even our protagonist doesn’t know fully. She leaves the audience feeling a sense of importance, and our human inclination to piece together the several parts of a puzzle kicks in, and we try to figure out what happened, all while receiving new details, new information. Eileen Cook gives us the right amount of information in the right order in the right time- the reader is never left feeling disoriented or overburdened by the clues. It’s just right.
With Malice utilizes the amnesia-trope perfectly. Jill, our protagonist, is absolutely certain of the relationship she had with her best friend, but the information we receive seems to be contradicting everything she says they had together. And since Jill can’t remember, what is the truth? This leaves the reader trying to solve two mysteries with regards to both the accident, and Jill and Simone’s relationship. The result is an amalgamation of genres: there is obviously mystery, but also drama, thrill and completely realistic contemporary.
In this day and age, where almost every YA novel is driven by romance and ships, I was surprised that there was no romance in this one, but it was still completely gripping. In hardcover, it is a decent 320 pages, yet I found myself at the end of the book just five hours after having started reading it. If that is not a testament to its thrill, I don’t know what is.
But despite all this, With Malice is not a perfect read, and the flaw lay in the characters. While Jill and Simone, and all the secondary characters, were reasonable in regards to dimension, I still felt like they lacked something. I was not fully invested in them. I did not want to watch their story unfold from an objective viewpoint; I wanted to engage, I wanted to be involved in the crime and the drama. And while I was hooked, I did not feel that Cook gave me the opportunity to form my own idea about what happened, about why it happened, about who the characters were. I like a sense of ambiguity about my mysteries- the shades of grey are what makes a thrill all the more thrilling.
But nonetheless, With Malice was a fantastic, fantastic read. It’s the perfect book for people (like me) who enjoy reading thrillers, mysteries and suspenseful reads in the summer. It is perfect for people who enjoyed Gone Girl, The Walls Around Us and We Were Liars. And it’s a book I would recommend to anyone who wants something different from the YA genre.
With Malice is released on June 7th, 2016