Title: With Malice
Author: Eileen Cook
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Source: ARC from Publisher
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.
If you know me, then you know that my reading tastes tend more towards the fluffy romance books, but every so often, I love reading something a little darker and a little different. Eileen Cook's With Malice was exactly that kind of book.
Here's the thing, the whole time I was reading With Malice, I didn't know what to trust and what to believe. The story is set up in a way that you, as the reader, are finding things out at the same time as Jill, the narrator, is finding them out because she's missing six weeks of her memories. Because of that, I just wanted to believe what she was telling me, that no, she couldn't possibly have harmed her best friend no matter what everyone seems to be saying. And I mean, I don't know about you, but I don't typically want the main character of the story I'm reading to turn out to be the villain at the end of it all. Mixed in with Jill's narration, are bits and pieces of news stories and online posts about the car accident, as well as police interviews of witnesses and suspects. Those odd bits and pieces from Jill's lost time are what made me question everything. Every time I thought something had been established, a police interview or blog post would pop up and then I would start wondering if maybe all those people were right, and Jill did have a car accident on purpose despite what she was now saying in the present. It kind of drove me nuts, because I'm one of those people who needs to know exactly what happened, but it also made it so I just kept reading because I had to know if my (educated) guesses were right or not.
Because of the memory loss, Jill is pretty much the definition of an unreliable narrator. I mean, she wakes up in the hospital and doesn't have a single memory of the previous six weeks. And those six weeks have been pretty freaking eventful. Because of that, I always took everything she said about herself and her relationships with others with a grain of salt. But at the same time, as I've already mentioned, I wanted to believe her. Much like her, I didn't want to believe that she could be capable of getting in a car and driving that car into a stone wall on purpose, all while her best friend is sitting in the passenger seat. That's sort of my long-winded way of saying that it was really interesting to see Jill struggle with this over the course of the story and wonder whether she would ever get her memories back and find out once and for all what exactly happened in that small Italian village on that day. And that twist at the end where Jill is concerned? I felt like I saw it coming but at the same time I didn't but I won't say more about that.
Eileen Cook's With Malice was a darker story that kept me guessing the whole way through. Even once I was finished I still didn't quite know if what Jill was telling me was what actually happened. But that's what made this story for me, the fact that I was never going to know for sure exactly what went down in Italy.