Format: E-Galley, 320 pages
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA, Mystery
It was the perfect trip…until it wasn’t.
Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last six weeks should be. She discovers she was involved in a fatal car accident while on a school trip in Italy. A trip she doesn’t even remember taking. 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.
As the accident makes national headlines, Jill finds herself at the center of a murder investigation. It doesn’t help that the media is portraying her as a sociopath who killed her bubbly best friend, Simone, in a jealous rage. With the evidence mounting against her, there’s only one thing Jill knows for sure: She would never hurt Simone. But what really happened? Questioning who she can trust and what she’s capable of, Jill desperately tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.
With Malice, by author Eileen Cook, is a story that could be considered realistic contemporary fiction bringing back memories of the Amanda Knox story. But, there's more to it than that. 18-year old Jill Charron awakes in a hospital bed. Apparently she's been involved in a car accident that has left her with memory loss of the past 6 weeks, plus an assortment of broken bones and bruises, and questions from the police both here, and in Italy about what really happened to her and her best friend Simone.
Cook tells an intriguing story that has perspectives from various factions, including Facebook posts, and interviews, while debating whether or not Jill is actually a Femme Fatale who intentionally murdered her best friend. If Jill isn't responsible, then who is? One could say that Jill's perspective isn't all that reliable, especially since she has word finding issues and can't remember anything. How are we, the readers, supposed to trust what she tells us when she can't remember the last 6 weeks of her life?
How are we supposed to take the intermittent memory returns that may actually make things even harder to understand what happened on that fateful day? What are we supposed to feel about someone who gets into an accident overseas (Italy), and is rushed home to get the best treatment possible thanks to their rich daddy? Outside of the obvious comparisons of the Amanda Knox trial, I have seen some comparing this book to Dangerous Girls. I can see the comparisons. You have two best friends in a foreign setting enjoying their time away, when something awful happens to one of them.
Outside the attempts of Jill piecing her life together, attempting to regain her memories, finding a friend who stands by her side, and a short trial, With Malice takes a hard look at what happens to a person with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). Cook does a fairly good job in putting the memory loss in perspective. The brain is a finicky thing, but luckily those who are young can and have bounced back from TBI. I did like the fact that Cook didn't dance around the situation. Losing your memories can destroy a person's life so badly, that they are a shell of their former selves.
Personal note: I have lived with word finding issues for years thanks to PTSD, depression, anxiety and anger issues. I understand what Jill was going through. I understand the inability to remember the word that was on the tip of my tongue, then was suddenly gone. Some doctors have linked my situation to the onset of dementia. For my sake, I do hope not since I don't really have anyone to take care of me.