ARC Review: With Malice

With Malice
With Malice by Eileen Cook
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Release date: June 7, 2016

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron’s senior trip to Italy was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime. And then the accident happened. Waking up in a hospital room, her leg in a cast, stitches in her face, and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be, Jill comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident in her travels abroad. 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. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

With Malice could have gone the traditional mystery route, with an amnesiac slowly regaining the memories of her accident, piecing together the flashes of clues leading to the big ‘aha’ moment when we realize what we thought had happened was not exactly what happened. Instead, it builds around the aftermath of the murder – Jill, who is in recovery and having no memory of the incident, forced to endure the suspicion of the world without being able to confidently defend herself. The story mostly deals with the perception of the crime – how the public, the media and the investigators see it. And it delivers a solid ending – unexpected in the way that you didn’t expect what note it would end on. While this being a mystery surrounding a murder, the main focus is on the psychological impact on the accused and the way the media paints a picture around a sensational headline. People have opinions and in the online age, everyone feels entitled to share them. Heck, me writing this review is an expression of my opinion. And scandals are a thing we can all claim are guilty pleasures; sure, we don’t really have anything invested in it, but we are also keen to follow and see the outcome.

That is how the author brings out this story of perceived notions, shaky facts and vindictive opinions – nobody knows the whole truth, but they sure do have their theories about it. Jill, meanwhile, is trying to heal herself while simultaneously wanting to know everything and nothing about the incident. She is shocked that everyone thinks she could have done it, despite no previous indication of it – she is quiet, but people think she is a bitch; she is not prone to anger, people think she is a psychopath. She and Simone have been best friends, nay, sisters for ages, but their relationship was shaky at its core, a fact that was amplified in the aftermath of the incident and blown out of context and proportion by people looking for drama. In its entirety, I think the message of the novel is that perceptions do matter and the end, while not always justifying the means, sure do paint a vivid picture. The writing definitely brought out this message in its harsh truth, leaving you with a question as to what was right and what was wrong. I would recommend this novel if you like complex characters and ambiguous motives.

Received a free galley from HMH Books for Young Readers, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.

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