Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Review: Beautiful Malice, by Rebecca James


Beautiful Malice
by Rebecca James
Hardcover, 272 pages
Bantam
Published July 13, 2010
ISBN: 0553808052 (ISBN13: 9780553808056)

So. Were you glad, deep down? Were you glad to be rid of her? Your perfect sister? Were you secretly glad when she was killed?

Following a terrible tragedy that leaves her once-perfect family shattered, Katherine Patterson moves to a new city, starts at a new school, and looks forward to a new life of quiet anonymity.

But when Katherine meets the gregarious and beautiful Alice Parrie her resolution to live a solitary life becomes difficult. Katherine is unable resist the flattering attention that Alice pays her and is so charmed by Alice’s contagious enthusiasm that the two girls soon become firm friends. Alice’s joie de vivre is transformative; it helps Katherine forget her painful past and slowly, tentatively, Katherine allows herself to start enjoying life again.

But being friends with Alice is complicated – and as Katherine gets to know her better she discovers that although Alice can be charming and generous she can also be selfish and egocentric. Sometimes, even, Alice is cruel.

And when Katherine starts to wonder if Alice is really the kind of person she wants as a friend, she discovers something else about Alice - she doesn’t like being cast off.



First line: I didn't go to Alice's funeral.

At the beginning of Beautiful Malice, we meet a girl named Katherine who is talking about a girl's funeral. We don't know who Alice is, only that Katherine doesn't go to her funeral and that she is pregnant. From there, we're shifted from present (years after Alice's death), to the past when Katherine met Alice, to a past being remembered - a past when Katherine Patterson was Katie Boydell and her younger sister, Rachel, was still alive. As the chapters bounce back and forth, we're weaved into a twisted story of death, guilt, grieving, friendship, romance, betrayal, and so much more.

Though some people may have found the jumping around confusing or just all our irritating, it seemed to only strengthen the suspense for me and kept me flipping through the pages, reading like a maniac. I think the skipping around worked well for this particular story because it kept giving you clues and insight into each of the times. While you know Alice dies, you don't know about Alice - so you get more into the time when Katherine and Alice become friends. While Katherine is grieving, you don't exactly know how and why her sister was killed - so you get chapters sporadically on the day that Rachel was killed. Honestly, all three time lines build up and come to the perfect conclusion(s) at the perfect time at the end of the book. All loose ends are completely tied.

*I think one problem that some people had was the actual location the book was set. I have an ARC, so I don't know if it's fixed in the final version - but I've heard that the book was set in Australia, but for some reason they decided to take out those references for the US copies? I'm not sure how true all of that is. I can understand the confusion, but specific locations (ie- cities, states, countries) never bothered me as long as the setting is drawn out well.

The characters were fleshed out well and kept to their own persona. Katherine was a heroine with a very tragic past, but I think that she handled her situations well, given the circumstance. Alice was definitely a mental-case, and you definitely love to hate her. Her friend with Katherine is certainly what I would call a toxic friendship - it's not a healthy relationship, but you can't help but somehow you just can't seem to let go. I love how James handled this with Katherine and Alice. Katherine's reasons for holding onto her friendship with Alice was realistic and something you can empathize with if you've ever been in that type of relationship before. Philippa comes into the story a little later on. She's a great female character that becomes the healthy (read: not psychotic) best friend of Katherine. I love Philippa. She's a keeper. Then there are the two main boys: Robbie and Mick. I fell in love with both! Robbie has a very rocky relationship with Alice - another toxic one - and it takes something extreme for him to break ties with her. His friendship with Katherine grows and I'm glad they were able to find one another and become strong friends. Mick is also another lovable character. He's the love interest for Katherine and he's pretty much an "A" in my book. The story between those two is so very bittersweet.

I'll have to admit that I guessed Alice's intentions about half-way through the book. That didn't stop me from reading, though. Rachel's death was a little graphic and some of the scenes were hard to read, but I think they were necessary and it gives you a better feel of what Katherine witnessed and how it ended up shaping her into the person she became afterward. Like the relationship between Katherine and Mick, the ending of the story is bittersweet. While it's heart-wrenching and tragic, there are some happy things that come out of it ... so it's a good compromise.

I want to say so much more about this book, but there's just no way of saying more without spoiling something for someone. All I can say is that I definitely recommend this to those that like psychological thrillers and, if you're anything like me, you'll be left wanting more. I cannot wait to read more from Rebecca James!

The Verdict?

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