Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on June 7, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Goodreads: ★★★ 1/2
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.
I picked up With Malice by Eileen Cook shortly after its release because I kept hearing so many positive reviews. This young adult mystery novel follows teenager Jill as she wakes up in the hospital not knowing how she got there. Jill spent the last six weeks studying abroad in Italy, but she was in a horrific car crash in which her longtime best friend Simone died. If that wasn’t bad enough, Jill is now accused of purposefully causing the crash to kill Simone. With Malice follows Jill as she tries to remember what happened in Italy and discover if she is Simone’s killer.
What I really liked about this book is the fast pace and addictive writing style. I flew through this captivating read because I just had to know if Jill was a killer or not! Jill is our first-person narrator, and I think that is a great choice. I wanted to instantly trust her, but I had to remind myself that she is unreliable because of the memory loss she suffered.
Unfortunately, the author takes a lot of liberties with the way she depicts the legal process in With Malice. While I know this is a fictional novel and written for entertainment purposes only, it was clear to me that either the author did not care to be legally accurate, or she simply failed to do proper research. For example, in one scene Jill’s lawyer mentions that the opinion of a lay witness would not be admissible because it pertains to the speed of the car during the crash. Anyone who has taken an evidence class in law school knows that is completely wrong – lay witnesses can give opinion testimony in this situation. I even did some research to make sure this is the same in Italy! Those without a legal background probably will not be as bothered by the plethora of inaccuracies, but it did take away a lot from my reading experience, as I do have a law degree.
Similarly, I was also disappointed with the way the ending of With Malice is written. All of the action takes place in the last 30 pages, rendering much of what was presented in the preceding 280 pages moot. While I did like the ending itself, it was quite frustrating that it had to be so rushed. The ending would be much more effective if it were longer and better explained.
Nonetheless, I am really impressed by the plethora of discussion topics that are brought up in this book. With Malice is perfect for a book club because the author brings up a lot of issues without giving strong conclusions to any of them. For instance, friendship plays a major role in the novel. Some of the questions that crossed my mind are: when is friendship true? Can you ever really trust your friends? Should we hold onto friendships simply because we’ve been in them a long time? I think these are questions that can be discussed with others for a long time!
Another topic that I found prevalent in the novel is that of the role of the media. Multimedia plays a role in With Malice, as readers get to see blogs, articles, police interviews, etc. and make their own conclusions as to what is true. This book really demonstrates how things can become twisted so easily. Does the media tell the truth, or are we supposed to find the truth based off of what the media presents? How does social media help or hinder the news? How does social media change the lives of others? Is anonymity online good or bad? I asked myself these questions upon finishing the novel.
Probably the most intriguing topic in the book, however, is truth. Jill is constantly trying to find the truth – did she really kill Simone, or is she being framed? With Malice helped me realize how we can almost never know the truth about something, and this goes for nearly everything in life! While scary, this is also fascinating. I’m grateful that this book evoked this curiosity within me!
All in all, I did enjoy my read of With Malice by Eileen Cook, even though there are some things about it that didn’t sit well for me. It certainly is a thought-provoking read, and I recommend it for any book club. I think it is also a great pick if you are looking to break into the mystery or thriller genres, as it reads very quickly. If you’ve read With Malice, I would love to know your thoughts on it! There is so much to discuss, so please leave me a comment!
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