Wednesday, June 22, 2016

With Malice by Eileen Cook

Elba Island off the coast of Italy

Eileen Cook is guilty of first degree sleep deprivation. Her With Malice kept me up way past my bedtime and will no doubt have the same effect on legions of other readers. There were intriguing suspects, multiple red herrings and more twists than the village roads of Tuscany. This young adult mystery-thriller is addictive to adult readers too.

May I state for the record that the Italian setting was no coincidence but rather a premeditated choice to connect this fictional story to the true case of Amanda Knox. Once again, we have a beautiful American brunette studying abroad in a supposed love triangle with her gorgeous roommate and a hot Italian man of ill repute. Sensational tales of passion, rivalry and deadly revenge are irresistible.

Elba Island road sign
Millennial teenagers have been known to lose interest in novels with linear plots, descriptive prose and literary language. Why read a book when you can check Snapchat? So this cunning author chose to break up her narrative with police interviews, news broadcasts, tour book excerpts, yearbook quotes, personal emails and vitriolic blog comments. Parents, lawyers, reporters, detectives, teen-tour leaders and other pillars of adult society were vilified without compunction. Always entertaining, With Malice verges on satire at times.

The Duomo in Florence, Italy

Was it murder, manslaughter or merely an accident? We will never know for sure because the main suspect had amnesia. The unreliable narrator's testimony leaves the reader tossing and turning in bed, ruminating over conflicting versions of the truth. As a writer myself, I was also plagued by envy. Eileen Cook has reset the game of young adult fiction.

Even more egregious? The author showed no remorse. On June 17, 2016 I tweeted that With Malice kept me up to 1:00 AM. Did Eileen Cook apologize? No, she retweeted me with this blurb: "I love ruining people's sleep." Ms. Cook is no doubt in the throes of crafting yet another YA novel designed to deprive readers of a good night's rest. Teens might form the dangerous impression that reading is fun.

Verdict: read this book, but start earlier in the day because you won't be able to put it down.

Reviewer's Disclosure: The publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, sent me a free June 2016 galley upon my request. I may have been influenced by Barrie Summy's excellent review of With Malice. The photos are from my visit to Italy, which is featured in the narrative. However, most of the story is set at an American rehab hospital, where the protagonist is recovering from a car crash. This book was previewed in my Good Summer YA Books for Teens and Tweens post.


Stacy said...

I bought this for my older stepdaughter after reading Barrie's review. She headed to Spain (for a school trip) yesterday. Think she finished the book while still on the flight?

tina said...

Those books that take away the sleep are the best!! Good job Ellen Cook! :)

Amanda Summer said...

Just ordered it at my public library yesterday!

A Cuban In London said...

Interesting your comment on teenagers not keen on linear narratives. You're right but I had never noticed it. We saw "The Kiss of the Spider Woman" the other day (for Father's Day, as it happens) and my daughter was really drawn into it despite the fact that there were only a couple of plots (and one was a made-up story by William Hurt) and a third mini-plot.

Thanks. A very good review.

Greetings from London.

Petra Pavlátková said...

What a funny review, Sarah, I love it. And I can see that such a book would be dangerous for me as I tend to read until my head starts throbbing and eyes keep closing, if the plot catches my attention… :)

Sarah Laurence said...

Stacy, lucky stepdaughter!

Tina & Petra, yawn. Rubs eyes. Right!

Amanda, I'm looking forward to hearing your reaction.

ACiL, a belated Happy Father's Day to you!

thecuecard said...

So does this novel follow like the Amanda Knox case? Or not too closely? I recall there was another novel based on the Knox case --- I think it was by Jennifer Dubois called Cartwheel. It came out a few years ago but I haven't read it. I know the Knox case was pretty contentious stuff.

Sarah Laurence said...

The author read about the Amanda Knox while researching this book, but her story is original and more appropriate for younger readers. Eileen was interviewed today in School Library Journal and explains her process and the research she did for With Malice, including Amanda Knox: Prolific YA Author Eileen Cook Opens Up About “With Malice”