Thursday, August 11, 2016

Book Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook

Pages: 316
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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."

Jill Charron appears to have it all at first glance. She comes from a wealthy family, has a charismatic best friend, and is off to Yale in the fall. Jill also has the opportunity to travel abroad this summer to Italy through an educational program. This is right up her alley, because she loves all things art and history. Her best friend, Simone, is the polar opposite of Jill, but this fact hasn't stopped them from being the best of friends since they were little.  Jill has always sort of been in Simone's shadow when it comes to all things social; however, Jill never really held it against her. She has more important things to worry about, like school.  However, this all changes when Simone somehow gets into Jill's study abroad program and things go downhill drastically from there.  There's been an accident of some sort and not only does Jill sustain major injuries that causes her to suffer from amnesia, Simone ends up dead! The problem is Jill can't remember anything that happened after she wakes up in the hospital. In fact, she has no recollection of her entire trip to Italy. This proves to be tough as people are pointing fingers at her saying she is a murderer. How can she defend herself when she can't even remember what happened? Plus, Jill and Simone had issues from time to time, but she would never dream of hurting her.  Eileen Cook's With Malice is one of the best YA thrillers I've read in quite awhile. It held my attention and I was desperate to get some answers.

Jill is a tough character to relate to, because readers will have a hard time getting to know her in With Malice as she suffers from amnesia and aphasia due to the accident. I wanted to like her; however, I couldn't help but think we obviously don't know the whole truth; I mean she is a quintessential unreliable narrator! Slowly readers learn more information about Jill and what truly happened in Italy.  Although I didn't necessarily sympathize with Jill, I was completely invested in her story. Then there's Simone. Ugh. I never enjoyed her from the beginning as she seemed manipulative to me.  I was able to make some predictions regarding her role in the accident, nonetheless, I still was hooked. I wanted all the answers surrounding her death and I definitely didn't see all the twists coming.

Because With Malice is more about finding out the truth and less about characters, I didn't get to really delve too deeply into what makes Jill tick.  I was hoping the characters would be fleshed out a bit more, especially the secondary ones, but that was not the case.

On the other hand, I loved how Cook told the story. Each chapter of With Malice alternated with a headline from the accident, a blog post, Facebook posts, or a transcript from the police department. It really was a neat way to tell the story and readers have to be a bit of a detective in order to glean information from all of this as the truth is somewhere in between.  With Malice felt like it was ripped from the headlines and I really enjoyed that aspect of the novel. Just as readers are slowly trying to figure out what exactly happened, so is Jill. 

I am rarely impressed by a YA thrillers as they are usually really lame or I can figure them out quickly, but that was not the case here. With Malice was an edge-of-your-seat read that had many twists and turns.  The ending even took me by surprise!  So, if you like your summer reading to be a bit more suspenseful, I urge you to check out With Malice.  


  1. Nice review! I freely admit that I skipped ahead and read the ending of the book because I was impatient. Unreliable narrators are not really my thing but I did like the twist. The problem is that I read another book with the same twist earlier this year. I won't name it in case you haven't read it yet :)

    I think teens looking for a quick and suspenseful story will enjoy this. I definitely wanted to know what happened but I didn't like the characters.

  2. Plot-driven novels tend to feature one-dimensional characters, isn't it? Like you said, this book's main focus was the mystery surrounding her accident. It's a double-edged sword. Sometimes, revealing more about the characters can reveal the mystery itself. So I guess, I kinda get it.

    Brill review, Christina!


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