Monday, 9 August 2010

Review: Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Publisher: Faber and Faber
Format: Paperback
Released: July 1st, 2010
Grade rating: B/B+

Amazon summary:

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 horrific tragedy that leaves her once perfect family devastated, 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 to 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.


Beautiful Malice took me completely by surprise. After hearing all about how it was a "publishing phenomenon" and an "international sensation", I'll admit I was a little apprehensive to read it. Why? I just didn't want to be disappointed. While it's not a stand-out favourite of mine, the story has succeeded in sticking in my head and, while I'm at it, totally freaked me out.

As a psychological thriller, Beautiful Malice ticks all the creepy boxes, and has more shocking moments than you'll know what to do with. It's clever, unusual and just slightly more twisted than I'm used to. It really plays on that age-old notion of people not being who you thought they were and, coupled with the consequences of bad decisions, it can be a tough read at times.

Katherine and Alice are both strong, layered protagonists with secrets buried so deep you think they'll never see the light of day. Katherine takes a while to fully figure out, but once you have her pegged as someone dealing with an intense amount of guilt, everything about her slots nicely into place. Alice, on the other hand, is just plain unfathomable. Right from the beginning, I had an uneasy feeling about her, from the moment she appeared on the page. Some of my suspicions were realised over the course of the book, while others never came to anything. She's a tangled web for you to unravel and, when you do, you'll wonder how you missed all the clues that make up her mystery.

Towards the end of Katherine's story, and as I started figuring out what was going on, I thought she would too. The obvious course of action would have been to move away with boyfriend Mick (who, by the way, I loved), or contact someone else for help. Of course, had that happened, the conclusion wouldn't have played out in the same way, and it would have lost its shock factor.

James writes fantastically for a debut author, and the way she flits between 3 different periods in time keeps the narrative moving at a fast and interesting pace. It's hard to look away from the events unfolding, even though I did occasionally find myself wanting to. After such a suspenseful 300 pages, I found the ending a bit anti-climactic. Though one part of it left me reeling like you wouldn't believe, the overall conclusion left me wanting more. The ending was in no way bad, so I think my dissatisfaction is down to the strength of the rest of the novel.

If you're looking for a thought-provoking read on the more psychological side of things, I think you'll really like Beautiful Malice. It didn't blow me away like I expected it to, but it's a good, page-turning debut that I'd recommend.


Cat @ Beyond Books said...

I have been waiting for this review to see what you thought! ;)

I honestly hadn't heard any of that "publishing phenomenon" or "international sensation" stuff, I just saw it in a Penguin newsletter and the title caught my eye first and then I read the summary - I knew I had to read it!

The ending blew me away even though I had some suspicion, only at times the book went in total opposite directions than I thought it would.

Nomes said...

I'm liking this review.

I keep feeling tempted to buy a copy every time i see it - but I'm positive my library will eventually get it in.

It's being sold as a crossover here - most book shops have it in the adult section

I like thrillers and everything the premise sounds like and havent really read that many in the YA genre, so looking forward to finally reading this.

I think i dont like to go in expecting too mush, you know? nothing that will resonate anyway, just more of a page-turning, lost in a book kinda feeling.

strange_candy_reviews said...

Great review. I'm halfway through the book but I keep having to put it down. I'm not entirely sure I like it.....

Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews) said...

I LOVE this book - it's been my favourite read of 2010 so far. I love psychological thrillers, and the tagline 'friendship can be deadly' got me interested right from the start. It's been a few months since I read it, but it really stayed with me! I loved characters of Mick, and Robbie too.

The Library Lurker said...

This book took me by surprise too! I was literally gasping at the end, and tearing up. It's so great! I'm not sure if I would ever read it again's an emotional roller coaster! Oh and great review ;)

Sharyla said...

What a great review! I really wasn't that interested by the synopsis, but your review will stick with me and if I get the chance to pick up this book, know that I surely will.

Erika said...

A book set in three different time periods? That ought to be interesting. This one sounds pretty good, and though it's not my typical read, I might get myself a copy. Thanks for the review!

Dwayne said...

I'm not sure I'm ready for this yet, but damn it sounds good. It's psychological side should appeal to a part of me too.Really great review here, Jenny!

Josephine Tale Peddler said...

This book is on my to read list. I really love these sorts of stories where it is picked up off the slush pile and becomes a big hit. xx

Becky said...

Hmmm... I am not sure if this os really my thing. I kind of get spooked by psychological things. They get inside my mind and do havoc up there. I haven't heard much of the hype for this that you mention. Where have I been?! I am also not liking the sound of the anti-climax. That's decided then, I'll let this one pass me by. Thanks for a very clear review.

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

I'm not sure if this is my thing either. But you've definitely piqued my interest. Thanks for the great review!

Iffath♥Ahmed said...

Great review! Beautiful Malice was so much better than I first expected it to be! Blew me away..definitely my favourite read of 2010! :)