Title: With Malice
Author: Eileen Cook
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: contemporary / adventure
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Synopsis: A read about a teenage girl who wakes up in a hospital bed and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend–only what if the accident wasn’t an accident?
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 6 weeks should be. She comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy three days previous but 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 was. . .a decent read,
Yes, of course, I enjoyed the book. It was my first print arc I’ve received from a publisher—and I was really, really ecstatic when it arrived (which may have factored into my thoughts time to time) At the time I felt like a true, experienced blogger. And although there wasn’t too much hype surrounding it
in fact I hadn’t even heard of it until I was sent a request email, so I wasn’t sure what I was going into upon reading it.
Luckily for me, I had no seen no opinions or hype on With Malice—unlike a lot of books I read, where you usually expect to get a certain reaction from it. Going in knowing next to nothing was definitely a perk, though ☺
Onto the review, there were some features of With Malice that I liked, from the alternating perspectives to different forms of text (email, police files, letters + notes) it kept things interesting from chapter to chapter. Listening to only Jill speak from inside her rehab center might have driven me crazy.
Despite this I genuinely liked Jill Charron. Not only do we share a name (which was really cool cause my name isn’t thrown around a lot in young adult books) but there were so many things she said and thought that I agreed / related to completely. It made me feel a little closer to her as not only a character, but a person as well.
“I started watching this BBC show on Netflix, and next thing you know, I binge-watched the whole series. I find that David Tennant so dreamy,” Dr. Weeks made a face like she was biting into something tasty. (p. 141)
The suspense was also a plus. True to its word—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—Eileen Cook always offered a new witness, a new perspective, a new hint to the truth behind the night Simone McIvory died in a fateful car accident.
WARNING: THIS MARKS THE END OF MY NON-SPOILER SECTION. I RECOMMEND YOU ONLY CONTINUE IF YOU’VE READ WITH MALICE
I related s o h a r d to Jill. When interrogated about Niccolo Landini (keep reading, he will be explained later) Jill explains she isn’t the type to fall fast and hard in love. In fact, she rarely falls at all.
They always talk about how teens are supposed to be slaves to our hormones, that we’re walking hormones, but I’ve never been like that. When everyone was falling in and out of love with some random guy they sat next to in history, I never felt swoony or envious. It seemed a waste. Guys, or at least the ones I’d met, didn’t seem worth the bother. There were so many other things that interested me more. (p. 99 / 100)
PREACH IT, GIRL ❤ I can’t remember the last time a female young adult protagonist expressed such
asexual views before. Most of them seem to depend on males / their significant others (cause #diversity) for validation. Not that I’m throwing any shade at these characters, either, it’s only a refreshing new view Jill brought to the young adult table.
After all of that tremendous praise (and the incredible Doctor Who reference I just had to insert in my review) why is With Malice only 4 stars then? Well it’s simple—it was loaded with cliches. First off, we’re introduced to a protagonist who has no recollection of the day that landed them in the hospital. (I’ve certainly read that before) and there was a car crash (my brain just aches thinking of each book that has used that incident) Lastly, in this typical ‘alleged’ car incident the protagonist is the only one to survive (also, a very common circumstance)
Usually, I can stomach a cliche or two—especially if I enjoyed the writing or the characters in the book. However, these
somewhat irritable cliches were huge factors in With Malice so it was difficult to get around them, poking inside my head, reminding me to note them in my review (and so here we are)
Not to mention Jill and Simone shared a very common but unoriginal based friendship. Simone was the confident, beautiful, risk-taking best friend—and Jill was the timid, single-minded bookworm (which describes me as well) They had a good thing going for them for years, Simone forced Jill to abandon her comfort zone every now and then, and Jill was Simone’s safety net.
Unfortunately for our protagonist, when the media discovered the car incident + Simone’s knife wound was linked to Jill, their roles were switched rather abruptly. Suddenly, blogs were popping up dedicating to bringing justice for Simone, and Jill had become the infidel capable of her best friend’s murder.
And don’t get me ~s t a r t e d~ on Niccolo Landini. The alleged lover of Jill on her abroad studies trip to Italy, he was a primary witness in Simone’s murder. It’s believed that his attention drawn to Jill had initiated the fallout between her and Simone. Isn’t it extremely cliche to assume a boy from nowhere could simply wedge his way into a friendship and tear it apart from the seams?
From the beginning I had found this reason a bit misogynistic. I knew there had to be something else that had caused their fallout.
I had to swallow a rush of bile in my throat. My parents believed I killed Simone. They thought I was guilty. (p. 150)
It’s not easy being pitted against the world who is hell-bent on proving you’re guilty. The media was relentless, creating fake witnesses to vouch how evil Jill was long before the ‘incident.’ I could empathize Jill often—she was just a girl who didn’t ask to be thrown into this storm of a news story. All she wanted was her best friend back and the police to pronounce her innocent.
Things aren’t so simple, however.
Once a knife was found in the car with Jill’s thumbprints and evidence Simone died of stabbing long before the effects of a car crash, it was all over for her. Her parents knew, her lawyer knew, the world knew—Jill was no longer straining to prove her innocence, no one would believe her now. But there was a silver lining however,
there always is, the knife had been tampered with by multiple paramedics. Who knows which fingers hadn’t touched the hilt? Shoddy evidence there, I guess.
As for the ending, everything tied together once we discover an Italian restaurant owner gave Simone + Jill wine up to an hour before the incident. His perspective linked together the scattered pieces of the murder that the Italian police had been missing throughout the investigation.
And how Simone was against Jill this whole time, that she hasn’t been ‘her friend’ for years? That Simone was the troll who criticized Jill’s feminist blog each week for years? How she described Jill as just a spoiled, privileged girl incapable of knowing struggle? That was a fascinating twist, I must admit. It wasn’t even Nico’s desperate attention who wedged between them, but years of spiteful rivalry Jill was clueless of? After the amount of favors Jill had pulled over for Simone? Like being Simone’s own scapegoat for the occasional weed-or-alcohol scandal with the McIvorys.
I claimed earlier I didn’t expect much from this book (not as in I knew it would be awful, but there was no initial hype surrounding it, so it was all or nothing when I turned the first page) What I had expected from With Malice was a suspenseful read involving a murder case and a more-or-less innocent protagonist named Jill Charron. What I hadn’t expected, however, was a shocking tale about a back-stabbing best friend and that you should n e v e r feel like someone is doing you a favor by being your friend. *drops mic*