Saturday, July 9

{Discussion Review} Eileen Cook - With Malice


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.




THE STORY

Veronika: I'm having a hard time deciding exactly how much I enjoyed With Malice, and I mostly blame the story for that. It's not that it was bad, or that I couldn't enjoy it, but I sure as hell expected a lot more upon picking it up - as in, something as epic as Dangerous Girls... but in the end, the book ended up feeling a bit like DG's cheaper copy. Maybe if we hadn't read Dangerous Girls we'd have enjoyed With Malice more. What do you say?

Ruzaika: Funny, but yes- that's exactly how I felt about it too. I did expect it to be something along the lines of Dangerous Girls, and while that might have had an impact on my initial expectations, I was not too disappointed by the resemblance, or lack thereof. While DG was about the darker side of teen girl friendships, the obsessiveness and stuff, this was more of a story focusing on the friendship (the less said about it the better) and figuring out the truth. I don't think I can explain it clearly but I feel they dealt with something entirely different at the end of the day. 

What did bother me, though, was the blurb. I felt I would have enjoyed the story more if I had skipped it entirely, since I kept on thinking "But I know this already! The blurb practically SAYS that!" for about 30% into the book and that's so not cool. Also, could we have had a more misleading cover? It did NOT do the story justice.

V: We disagree here a bit - to me, despite the differences you mentioned, With Malice still was a lot like another version of Dangerous Girls. Anyhow, I agree about the blurb - too much info! - and the cover doesn't fit the story at all. But hey, at least it does look pretty. 

I'm going to just jump onto my biggest problem right now - the, for various reasons, unsatisfying ending. I stayed up all night to FINALLY learn what happened, but then it was nowhere near as mind-blowing as I expected. On the contrary, we can't even be sure about how accurate the ending is, as Jill's therapist warned her that she might make up memories to fill in the blanks. So we're left with a bit of an unclosed ending that was not well-crafted, in my opinion.

R: That I agree with. To think that we went through all that to end up with a big fat uncertain question mark at the end was quite disappointing... but now that I think about it, perhaps the author meant it to be that way? Probably because it contributes to the overall sense of uncertainty we had throughout the book. Not that I fully approve of the uncertainty, but I think it was meant to be that way to screw with us just a bit more *cue unamused laughter*


Despite all that, I do have to say With Malice was a very much plot-driven story, and a good one at that. I was excited and thrilled by it, and it managed to keep me completely hooked throughout, so I'm not complaining there. I think I appreciate the book more for it's ending, however much I didn't like it.

V: I definitely think she meant it that way, but that still doesn't make me LOVE it. On one hand, yeah, it added to the uncertainty - and it is always good when the ending's atmosphere is similar to the overall atmosphere, but it was also very abrupt? And not in the awesomely unexpected way that I love. Instead, it felt like the author wanted to close the book FAST - how quickly Jill started to think differently didn't make sense to me. Add the final verdict to that and we have an ending that feels a bit all over the place and is far from being what I call a great finish.

R: Okay, so yeah - I agree with you there. That final verdict came about super-fast. Like, on one page, we are still not sure what's going to happen and then- BAM- the final verdict's given totally out of the blue and you're left reeling at how abrupt it was. It did seem like the author wanted to tie up all the loose knots as soon as possible, and Jill's sudden changeover was a bit disturbing and felt unnatural too. So yes, it could have been done better- heck, even those hotshot Italian officials ended up looking like fools and that's not who they seemed to be at the beginning at all.

V: Overall, this was no perfect story, but, as I mentioned before, it did make me stay up all night and I was well-immersed in the book most of the time. If only the twists and turns were as mind-blowing as I expected them to be and the ending had been wrapped up more efficiently... 

R: That's spot-on. It could definitely have been better, but I was in the mood for an engrossing YA thriller when I picked it up, so I'm reasonably happy with what I got.

THE CHARACTERS:

V: Moving on to the characters - I was not satisfied with them either. At first, I thought Jill would be completely antipathetic - she seemed like such a know-it-all! - but her personality was a pleasant surprise. My problems started when I felt as though - like we mentioned before - her way of thinking kept changing too abruptly. For example, the way she felt for that guy was very confusing?? At first, it seemed like that relationship must have been a huge deal, but then it was played down to basically "just for fun". All in all, I couldn't understand Jill, thus I had problems connecting to her.

R: Jill did start out as kind of plain, but she grew on me in a good way. I liked seeing her develop (which is pretty limited given the circumstances), but towards the ending, it did get a bit too out of hand. The romance, though, I understand why she felt the way she did about it. She was obviously quite taken with the guy, if the revelations were any indication, but cut to the present, she is in a position to think clearly about it, so her brushing it off as not important didn't really bother me.

V: It's not the difference between the past and the present that I mind - I simply meant the past. She seemed so into the guy, but then - when all hell broke lose - I had the feeling that she didn't care much about "losing" him? As he was her first love that was a bit unrealistic, in my opinion, especially because it previously seemed she was really, really into him. The other characters didn't impress me either - Jill's parents were kind of meh and I wasn't a fan of the author trying to mix Jill's family issues - like the way she was dealing with her father's new family - into the picture. It was unnecessary, but if such a topic is brought up, then, I think, it should have been better portrayed.

R: I get what you mean there, but I think that she didn't react in a way we would have expected of her when it comes to the guy because she was more troubled by her relationship with Simone. Judging by the way she thought of Simone after the accident when she had no memory whatsoever about what happened, she held their relationship very, very dear. So when the guy came into the picture and things turned out the way they did,  I think its perfectly reasonable that she cared more about Simone. About the other characters, yeah, I wasn't all that impressed by them either, with the exception of Anna. She was cool. And yes, the family thing  was totally uncalled for since nothing was resolved about it at the end.

V: We'll have to agree to disagree on that one - I still think Jill's change of heart about the guy was too quick, even if I understand her love for Simone was bigger. Yep, Anna was the only really cool and also well-crafted characters - the friendship that developed between Jill and her was EVERYTHING. I loved how Anna, while was at a bad place in her life, still tried to help Jill in whatever she could. Simone, on the other hand, was not very well-portrayed, which bothered me A LOT.

R: I really loved Anna and how her relationship with Jill shaped up- we never got to know what happened to her at the end though! Okay,that may be asking too much, but she remains as the one character I actually really liked in the book.  Simone could really have done with a lot more development- she just came across as bossy and manipulative, but we never really got to know her. That might be partly due to the narrator, since we never got to hear the story from Simone. So, yeah.

THE WRITING

R: The writing, while nothing mind-blowingly awesome, was effortlessly smooth. I liked it enough that it made me think I should check out more of the author's works. As readers, we are pretty much clueless about what would have happened, and we depend solely on Jill. I liked that sense of unreliability and felt it contributed greatly to the atmosphere of the book overall. The narrative is filled with occasional written witness statements, interview transcripts, Facebook updates, texts and emails, and I really enjoyed the format. It's especially good when it comes to thrillers because it shows us exactly how information gets misinterpreted and the truth gets distorted. 

V: I agree 100%. The writing was not outstanding, but that's not super-important to me in a mystery-thriller anyway, what mattered was how, despite the high stress level, it was easy to read the novel. Like you mentioned, the interview transcripts, FB updated texts and emails were a nice addition to the story - they gave us a breath of fresh air in-between Jill's unreliable chapters, even though we could trust in these no more than Jill's point of view.

THE VERDICT

Veronika: With Malice wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't very impressive or innovative, either. I'd say, if you think this is something that you'd enjoy, definitely pick it up. If you're unsure about it... then I probably wouldn't recommend it, and it surely won't be one of those books that I keep shoving at my friends. 

Ruzaika: Jill was an extremely unreliable narrator, and despite me being quite frustrated at points, I did enjoy the story overall. It was a pretty easy read that was fast-paced with just the right amount of suspense. A few gripes about the ending aside, I did enjoy this and would recommend it to you, no doubt!



THE RATINGS

Veronika: 
  • The story idea: 4/5
  • The realization of the story: 3/5
  • The characters: 3/5
  • The cover: 3.5/5
  • Enjoy factor: 3.5/5
  • Final rating: 3/5

Ruzaika:
  • The story idea: 4/5
  • The realization of the story: 3.5/5
  • The characters: 3.5/5
  • The cover: 2/5 It's pretty, but it doesn't suit the story, okay?
  • Enjoy factor: 4/5
  • Final rating: 4/5

8 comments:

  1. I really liked the structure of this review, ladies! It was very informative. This definitely looks like something up my alley and I'm definitely willing to give it a try!

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    1. Thanks, Emily! Hope you'll pick it up soon, because I can't wait to see your thoughts on it. :)

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  2. I really enjoy this kind of reviews because it's always nice to see different opinions on the same books and just seeing in what things you guys agreed and in what things you didn't. Overall, I don't think this is for me. I've been quite disconnected with YA anyways but I know this is not something I would enjoy.

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    1. And we love writing these kind of reviews because its always fun comparing our views :D Glad you enjoy them, Noe! :)) About the book, well, I understand why it might not look all that appealing to you, especially since you feel so disconnected with YA now!

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  3. I'm sure your joint review is more enjoyable than the book itself haha. I've been looking for a good YA thriller since...forever (I mean, since when I read Christopher Pike's), but I always end up being reluctant to pick them up, because of the reviews. Also, it sounds like there are always unhealthy friendships involved, which doesn't sit well with me. Or maybe it's because I've read too many "Agatha Christie & friends" books, so I expect too much ;).

    I had fun reading your "double the trouble" review ;P. But I'm sure I'll have even more fun the day that you pick up a book on which you have COMPLETELY different opinions LOL. Could it ever happen?

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    1. Glad you found our discussion so entertaining, Roby :D I remember you speaking about your dislike towards unhealthy friendships, so as much as I want to throw this book at you and make you read it, I suppose you'd better not :(
      I'm not sure when we'll get around to buddy-reading a book we have completely different opinions on, but reviewing such a book would surely be loads more fun!

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  4. Aww I absolutely love the way you wrote this review, V and R. :D These are the kinds of reviews that I enjoy reading. Can you write more like this? Haha.

    Anyway, you're not the first who said that this book closely resembled to Dangerous Girls. I read another blogger's review and she said the same thing. It's kind of sad to hear that it was like a "cheaper copy" though because I would've had huge expectations for this -- especially because I really loved DG.

    I'm kind of doubtful whether I'd like this or not. I like how the writing made the novel easy to read, but mostly I admire books with good narrative and transition stuff. Haha. Perhaps I'll just borrow from the library and see for myself anyway? :P

    Beautiful review!

    Jillian @ Jillian's Books

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    1. We'll be definitely considering your request and coming up with more reviews like this, Jill :D Glad you enjoyed this one!
      I think it would be best for you to borrow it from the library and see for yourself whether you like it :D I'm hoping you will!

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