Book Quote:

“…But what I really mean is Poor us. All three of us have had terrible things happen – murder, cancer, abandonment – and for the first time I’m tempted to tell Robbie about Rachel. It’s not sympathy I want but the credibility that comes with having faced and lived through something tragic. I can say that I understand, and I do, but to Robbie and Alice – who know nothing of my past – my words would sound hollow……I say nothing.”

Book Review:

Review by Maggie Hill (JUL 30, 2010)

It is important to set the parameters, or the standards, of a Young Adult novel right up front when reviewing one in a public forum. The Young Adult novel is a genre that allows authors to explore edgy content within the typical bathos of teen self-consciousness. If a novel is to be successful in this market, it must ambitiously try to underscore topics such as murder, sickness, abuse, heroin addiction, suicide, sexuality – pretty much any topic with an “edge” – and have a central character that is either surrounded by the subject, or is going to potentially be lost to the subject. Take Romeo & Juliet, minus out the words of William Shakespeare, put it in first person narrative form – let’s let Romeo be the narrator – and you will be soundly situated in a Young Adult novel.

In general, these novels tend to be action-oriented, filled with personal drama, and focused almost exclusively on a difficulty that one character experiences. Because the genre’s goal is to dramatize a topic and render an ultimate (usually, moral) denouement, chapters are generally short and can read like scenes from a television show or play. Good examples of this genre make liberal use of dialogue, realistic setting, and character archetypes (i.e. the mean girl, the bad boy, the messed-up-by-sadness protagonist).

All of this is by way of introducing Beautiful Malice, a YA novel by first-time author Rebecca James. The novel centers around, and is told by, a high school student who has been a witness to, and victim of, her sister’s murder. On the heels of this tragedy, she relocates to another town and takes a new name. There, she keeps to herself and keeps her secrets and self-blame safe. Until she meets the larger-than-life, beautiful, magnetic Alice, who befriends her. Alice makes Katherine, the narrator, her best friend. Although Katherine is striving to just be unnoticed and live a quiet last year of high school, Alice’s friendship spins her into a web of psychological torture as only a teenage girl can experience it.

The topic of this novel is murder; specifically, the repercussions of a terribly normal mistake suddenly crashing into someone else’s malicious intent. Thrown into the mix is promiscuity, teen pregnancy, mistrust of adults, and a world in which teenagers must find their own way. It’s a page turner.

This novel is a successful YA novel for all the reasons mentioned above. For an adult, there are limits to what we will accept as drama. However, for the audience that this novel seeks, it deserves to be noticed and read.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 17 readers
PUBLISHER: Bantam (July 13, 2010)
REVIEWER: Maggie Hill
EXTRAS: Excerpt

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July 30, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Australia, Coming-of-Age, Mystery/Suspense, Psychological Suspense

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