Buy With Malice
Special price $19.15 Regular price: $19.29 ($24.80 CDN)
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers / Raincoast Books
Reviewer: Melissa on June 9, 2016
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
It was the perfect trip…until it wasn’t.
Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room with her leg in a cast, stitches in her face, and a black hole where the last six weeks of her life ought to be. She learns she was involved in a fatal car crash during her school trip to Italy. A trip she doesn’t even remember taking. Nor does she remember being sent on a private jet home by her wealthy father in order to receive the best care available. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because as Jill – and the reader – soon learns, there are some people who think maybe the accident wasn’t really an accident. In With Malice by Canadian YA author Eileen Cook, the accident makes national headlines and Jill finds herself in the center of a murder investigation in which the media portrays her as a sociopath who killed her sweet, bubbly best friend, Simone, in a jealous rage. As the evidence mounts, there’s only one thing that Jill knows without a shadow of doubt: She would never hurt Simone. But if she didn’t…then what really happened in Italy? Questioning both who she can trust and what she’s capable of, Jill desperately attempts to put together the missing pieces of the last six weeks before she loses control of her once-perfect life.
On the back of the ARC Raincoast Books sent me on behalf of HMH Books for Young Readers, it says: “A gripping and addictive read that grabs the reader and yanks them into a world where nothing is what it seems and where everyone is a suspect. You won’t believe how it ends.” It’s not every day that when a publisher, like HMH, makes a cover flap claim that I agree with wholeheartedly. Especially the parts about it being “gripping and addictive,” “everyone is a suspect,” and “I won’t believe how it ends.” If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself completely fascinated by the turn of events that this novel takes throughout the story. In fact, the further I got in the novel, the more claustrophobic it became as Jill’s circle of people she could trust got smaller and as it became more clear that even what Jill herself believed was suspect. Moreover, this novel is completely unpredictable. I expected twists and turns, but I found myself truly surprised by how Cook wraps up the story in a way that took me a couple of days to process my thoughts and feelings.
One of the things that I loved most about this psychological YA thriller, beyond what I’ve already said, is the way that Cook alternates between telling the story through Jill’s unreliable point of view and through chapters that tell the story through various documents from travel guide snippets, police interviews, blog posts, and their notoriously terrible comments to Facebook comments, text messages, undelivered letters, television transcripts, media interviews or statements, and forensic psychology reports. While I’m not well versed in reading all the types of documents that Cook includes, her decision to use mediums that l readers will be more familiar with, such as travel guides, texts messages, and online comments to blog posts, Facebook pages, or news stories makes the other ones infinitely more familiar and increases the believability of every document type she gives readers…even the ones with which relatively few readers, especially in the target audience, would be familiar.
At the same time, the decision to include mediums and voices outside of Jill’s first person narration increase the importance of the news piece that Jill’s life had become and make the weight of the sentence she faces much more real. Whereas many of the mysteries and thrillers I read as a young adult focus on the key players, Cook shows that when a news story of the magnitude of Simone’s death and Jill’s involvement in it breaks, everyone has an opinion about it. And those who may only have a cursory understanding of the complex relationship between Jill and her BFF, Simone, are willing to step up either voluntarily or for the money to share their insight into the case. It was just one other way that Cook made the world of her story real to a reader because we’ve all come to know at least one – if not many – news stories that are fought, initially, in the court of public opinion and through media spin before the accused ever sees his or her day in court. It reminded me that unlike most crime TV shows, the story doesn’t just play out in the vacuum of the investigators and what they share with the public in a way that I don’t remember another book doing so well before, and if my experience of reading this book is anything like yours will be, it’ll call to mind at least one story that had the world talking online, through the media, and in their homes.
While I have a lot more that I could say about this book, I don’t want to spoil anything for the reader because you deserve a chance to pick it up and form your own opinion of what happens. With Malice is highly recommended for anyone who loved Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl…minus the victim’s voice.
Buy With Malice today and benefit from a small discount!
One-Question Interview with Eileen Cook:
YA Book Shelf: Rather than just a straight first person narrative from Jill’s perspective, With Malice has layers of other materials from travel guide tips, police interviews, and blog
posts to blog comments, text messages, emails, postcards, and ripped up letters, which
offer different opinions about what happened, or might have happened, in Italy.
How did you decide which voices to include and how did you make sure that the various voices represented were distinct and that the various mediums seem like legitimate documents of the events? What kind of research into criminal investigations and the way information is collected
and disseminated both in legal courts and in the court of public opinion did you have to
complete to make these documents believable?
Eileen Cook: Part of what I wanted to explore in With Malice was the idea of how our reality is shaped by our memory of events, but if you can’t remember, who do you trust to help you fill
in those gaps? The main character Jill has been in a car accident and has a brain injury
as a result.
I worked for years as a counselor for people with catastrophic injuries and illness,
including brain injury. I was an expert on the topic for the BC Supreme Court, so I had
the opportunity to work with a lot of lawyers and to read and review documents, such as
psychology reports, police documents, transcripts etc. that are used in court cases. When
I had a draft of the book I checked with several people to try and ensure I got the
details correct. (Any mistakes are my fault.)
What made the writing fun was having the chance to drop into the head of so many
different people in this story—other students on the trip, teachers, reporters etc.
They all have a version of the truth and different motivations to spin the story. The
truth is slippery. What really happened is filtered through past experiences, memory, and
belief systems. I hoped to give readers the experience of trying to sift through all this
information and decide for themselves what they believed happened.
YABookShelf: Thanks so much for stopping by my blog, Eileen!