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Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Published by Bantam Books (An imprint of Random House)

Pages: 272

Ages: Young Adult

Release Date: Look for it July 13, 2010

Publishers Summary: Who is Katherine Patterson? It is a question she hopes no one can answer. To erase her past, Katherine has moved to a new city, enrolled in a new school, and even changed her name. She’s done the next best thing to disappearing altogether. Now, wary and alone, she seeks nothing more than anonymity. What she finds instead is the last thing she expected: a friend.
Even more unlikely, Katherine’s new friend is the most popular and magnetic girl in school. Extroverted, gorgeous, flirtatious, and unpredictable, she is everything that Katherine is not and doesn’t want to be: the center of attention. Yet Alice’s enthusiasm is infectious, her candor sometimes unsettling, and Katherine, in spite of her guarded caution, finds herself drawn into Alice’s private circle.
But Alice has secrets, too—darker than anyone can begin to imagine. And when she lets her guard down at last, Katherine discovers the darkest of them all. For there will be no escaping the past for Katherine Patterson—only a descent into a trap far more sinister . . . and infinitely more seductive.

“This is the story of Katherine, a girl recovering from a tragic event that has left her permanently scarred and completely alone. She’s alone until she meets Alice, an infinitely beautiful and popular girl in a new city and school. Oddly enough Alice befriends Katherine and what happens after that is completely unexpected. From beginning to end Rebecca James takes you on a journey of loss and then recovery through the sometimes haunting and graphic story of Katherine Patterson.

**Spoiler Warning**

Beautiful Malice is a book that is revealed in layers, perfectly timed and paced until the very last page. In this way it actually reminded me a lot of the writing style found in Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Because of this though, it’s difficult to review without revealing a few of the puzzle pieces that make the book so intriguing.

“Quite a bit of this book is focused around friendships/relationships both good and bad; as is stated by Rebecca James herself in the following video (*email/RSS subscribers may have to click through to the post to view the video.):

“In the initial beginnings of Alice and Katherine’s friendship, Alice is a new experience for Katherine. Alice is popular and beautiful and Katherine is the new girl with a mysterious past. For some reason Alice sweeps her off her feet into what becomes a unique and damaging relationship. Honestly, Alice reminded me of a character from a recent episode of the television series House, titled Remorse. The main character in the episode was a psychopath and had absolutely no emotional connection with the people around her, but was still able to mask it effectively enough to fool someone into marrying her. Alice was similar in so many ways, she fooled everyone around her into believing she was a happy carefree soul with no regrets or concerns. As the book unfolds you see how Alice begins to unravel and in turn lashes out at Katherine. It’s terrifying and absolutely brilliantly written.

“In addition to her relationship with Alice, there are others that come along in Katherine’s story. Many of them are chosen because they happen to be there at the moment or are friends of friends. But others, including her own sister, are just part of who she is. Often times we aren’t given the opportunity to chose who will be in our lives, but what it comes down to is how we approach those relationships. How we allow them to transform our lives or us transform theirs.

“In Katherine’s case the one relationship that changes her forever is the one with her sister, and for very obvious reasons. Her sister is brutally raped and murdered in front of her, a scene which I found very difficult to read. It was so graphic, including the drinking (by a fourteen year old) that led up to the situation. For this reason, I couldn’t say I recommend it to younger audiences, it’s definitely a very mature Young Adult novel. The death of her sister changed Katherine forever, understandably, and she’s left questioning whether she deserves to be happy ever again, because, to some extent she allowed it to happen. As an outsider to an extreme situation it made me more mindful of my own children and how I plan to address the possibility of these occurrences in their lives, whether directly or as an ‘onlooker’.

“Overall, I thought Beautiful Malice was an extremely well-crafted book with a heart breaking story. As a mother of young children I’m afraid my viewpoint may be skewed and not entirely focused on the theme of friendship, but more so on the damaging effect our choices can have on our lives when we make poor ones. I don’t feel that takes away from the value of the book at all, but it’s just a different view than possibly the target audience may have. I’d love to hear what you think! It’s an intense journey from beginning to end, but one I would highly recommend.”

The1stdaughter Recommends: Ages 16/17 and up. This book is intended for more mature audiences. There are graphic scenes of rape and murder as well as underage drinking with the mention of sexual encounters and teen pregnancy as well. As a parent I would definitely encourage reading the book before passing it along to your teen so that you can both discuss the topics covered in the book together.

For the Comments: I’d love to know what you think. How would you view and handle a book with the situations I described above?

This book was provided for review by Traveling ARC Tours. Thank you!
Purchasing products by clicking through the links in this post will provide us a modest commission through our affiliate relationship with IndieBound.

13 Responses to Book Review: Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

  1. Darlyn says:

    I have not read this yet but I’ve had read a few reviews about the book and i think this book is very interesting and it’s highlighted serious issues. Since I’m in my early twenties, I know it has big issue and wont recommend younger teens to read this.I wont be able to handle it myself too.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by Darlyn! I’m glad I could help! Sometimes there are books for me, as an adult, that are just too much to handle as well. I’m so glad we have the opportunity to talk about it with each other through our blogs.

  2. Excellent review. Thanks for the content tip 🙂

    • Thanks Juju! (Aren’t you supposed to be on vacation? LOL) I definitely felt I had to get that info out there, not that it’s a bad book, just maybe more than some can handle.

  3. Gwen says:

    It is really hard to choose books for actual young adults these days isn’t it? As I look back, my parents didn’t censor what I read, but there wasn’t the market then for this genre. The worst that could happen was that I would get nightmares from Poe & King, or learn a few new swear words from Salinger.

    Now there are books, geared toward teens that teens that quite frankly, make me blush or even uncomfortable at my age. Like I mentioned to you before, the trick is telling yourself that you aren’t censoring, you are helping choose books that are appropriate. Only the individual parent should get to decide. I wouldn’t want this book in Arts granddaughter’s hands, but I sure would like to have it in mine:)

    • It is hard, and I’m really so glad I read them so often. I actually have a young girl from our church who is constantly asking for recommendations and I’m happy I can give her great choices.

      I completely agree with you. I definitely don’t agree with banning or censoring books outside our homes, but when it comes to our own individual families it’s nice to make informed choices. I was certainly happy to have read this book, but I’ll be holding off handing it to a young adult until they’re a little older. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Rhiana says:

    This is a fantastic review! I haven’t read the book, although I do want to. The points you raise are ones I’ve been thinking of myself recently. As a mother of a young daughter I do occasionally read a YA novel and wonder if I’d like her reading it as a young teen. I agree with the above comment, the YA market has completely changed since I was in that age range. However this meant I sought out adult books instead and from around 12-13 years the themes you mention were a given in those books (and often not very well written either). I think my knee jerk maternal reaction is to occasionally be uncomfortable with the idea of my daughter reading something, but when I consider it fully, then I know I would never censor her reading and think there are more sinister influences out there that our children will be bombarded with daily. Hopefully my daughter and I can share and discuss books together in the future and this will help her process what she has read in a way that I would like her to.

    • Thank you so much! It’s hard once you have children to look at things outside of the realm of “how would this affect them”, but I think it’s necessary sometimes. We can’t always shelter them from everything, they would just end up a huge mess in the end I think. But like you, I get that initial knee jerk reaction and want to say “no way”. Thankfully my kiddos are still little and I have time to step back from it a bit.

      I’m in the same boat with reading as a 12-13 year old. I remember that by the time I was in my freshman year of high school I was already reading Anne Rice and some pretty heavy stuff. But I also had fabulous parents that talked with me about some of the heavier issues involved. I’m hoping I can do the same for my own kids, so that when they pick up a book (because I know it will happen even if try for it not to) I can answer questions and have good conversations with them about these things.

      Fabulous points! Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • Gwen says:

      You brought up a great point, there are a lot more sinister influences out there. It reminds me of when people blame TV or video games for violence. While I think they are related, I don’t see them as the total cause. I am sorry, but a normally mellow & well adjusted kid is not going to turn into an axe murderer just because he/she saw it on TV.

      Books like this might also give you avenues into talking with your teens. They might have questions or you can phrase a learning episode from the character’s perspective. (Would you have reacted the same way Katherine did? for example)

      • Absolutely! I think (and maybe I’ll regret this later, when the kids are older) that a lot of it has to do with communicating with our kids. Seems that maybe the banning/censoring of books is more a communication problem between parent and child. Because, just like you said, a normal well-adjusted child would not ( I would think) just go on a killing spree after seeing or reading something violent. As parents I think it’s important for us to be involved with our children’s lives and not just their sporting or extracurricular activities. We need to talk with them and ask them how they feel about things.

        Loving this discussion by the way!

  5. Gina says:

    Finally get to read and comment on this review….as my review is typed and ready to post on Friday. I definitely agree on the mature YA or even adult recommendation as the story contains rather dark elements, but so does life. I really appreciate the points you raised in your review as it paints a clearer picture as the what parents may be reacting to in this….though I must say my comments and/or concerns listed are somewhat different. You’ll see come Friday. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this title! Happy reading….

    • Yay! I finally get to see what you think about the book! I can’t wait!

      I agree with life having “dark elements” and that as a writer it’s sometimes their position to create stories that enlighten readers. I just wish the target audience listed would maybe have a “mature YA” listing, because I’d hate for someone too young to be haunted by some of these images, no matter how true.

      Still. I can’t wait to see what you though…*anxiously awaiting Friday!*

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