Tuesday, September 13, 2016

With Malice

In today’s social media crazed world where gossip is news, drama sells, and every Tom, Dick and Harry posts or tweets their views as if experts, the court of public opinion rules and the idea that someone is innocent until proven guilty seems to have become a thing of the past. Eileen Cook’s YA thriller, With Malice, highlights the truth that in part nowadays “it doesn’t matter what’s true – what matters is what people believe.” Inspired by the real-life Amanda Knox trial, this engaging thriller keeps you guessing until the very end.

From the publisher: “Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron's senior trip to Italy was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime. And then the accident happened. Waking up in a hospital room, her leg in a cast, stitches in her face, and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be, Jill comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident in her travels abroad. 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. 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 relatively tame thriller insofar as action and adrenaline, but a no less enjoyable read for its more character-driven focus. Jill is a less than reliable narrator due to her traumatic brain injury and amnesia, a key factor that makes for some captivating reading, as you question her every thought and sense of self. Interspersed between chapters of Jill’s narrative, the author has shrewdly added police transcripts, Facebook comments, text messages and blog posts that offer numerous points of view and give the reader an array of perceived truths to parse through, making an already nebulous situation all the more murky and adding to the tale’s suspense.

While some may take issue with the use of amnesia as a plot device I found it to be pure genius on the author’s part, as it added such a suspenseful dynamic to the mystery. Angel or vixen, victim or villain, the truth of Jill depends on each person’s perception and adds another facet to the mystery given her own self-doubts. As Jill struggles through her recovery, both she and the reader labor with the question of how you grasp the truth when even your memories can’t be trusted? Are we editors of our own memories and truths, unable or unwilling to believe that we are the kind of person capable of unspeakable evil?

With Malice was a twisty and satisfying read with a compelling mystery, which on a more thought-provoking note raises the question of the link between truth and memory and our sense of self, and what remains of both when memory is lost.