Saturday, October 30, 2010

Beautiful Malice, By Rebecca James- Review

About this time last year you may remember a crazy amount of hoopla about debut author Rebecca James.  After a large quantity of rejection letters from agents, her manuscript was pulled from a unsolicited slush pile and started a crazy world wide bidding war for the publishing rights.

While on one of my google hunts for new info, I typed in J.K. Rowling and ended up looking at a bevy of articles about the pandemonium surrounding Ms James, many of which were questioning if she would be the next J.K. Rowling, the author of the last books to have created such a phenomena.  I immediately started following her blog, spending several months reading back posts and waiting to hear more about the Y.A. thriller she'd sold.

Like J.K. Rowling she was bordering on bankruptcy when the book finally took off, she had children (four sons) and she'd written the book on her off time.   Her blog was amusing and down to earth,  I was totally intrigued and dying to get my hands on her book after it had caused so much excitement.  Shortly after the news went wide though, she dropped her blog and had an under construction website that no matter when I clicked on it, seemed to go nowhere.  I eventually stopped checking up on what the progress was and forgot her name, only to be reminded about her while flipping through the confirmed guest list for the IFOA (international festival of authors in Toronto) in early October.  I was thrilled she was coming and surprised her book, Beautiful Malice, had been released (at long last) in July.  Why hadn't I caught this sooner?  I quickly ordered my copy through Amazon, and decided to head down to her reading and interview this past Friday morning.

The synopsis going around was roughly this:  Katherine and her family have moved and started a new life after a devastating tragedy, leading her to befriend Alice, a seemingly perfect start to a new life.  Except friendship with Alice is not what it seems, and could quite possibly have lead her into a whole new web of danger.

Beautiful Malice was a very quick read, but completely unimpressive.  I absolutely cannot imagine what caused all the excitement in the first place!  The first person, present tense, narrative is awkward and lead me to my first ever instance of noticing the narrative while reading.  Normally I'm so caught up that unless I'm asked (the hubby generally loathes first person, so it comes up) I don't tend to take note of the type of narrative at all. Jarring and unpolished sounding, Beautiful Malice's narrative is immediately noticeable, which took me out of the thread of the story repeatedly.

The story jumps back and forth from two years in the past, gradually revealing what exactly has happened to her sister, to present time with Alice, to five years in the future.  Each told in present tense.  I'm supposing this is meant to create the tension of the story, each component only revealing tiny little bits at any given time, so you find yourself deep into the book before much is revealed.  But so many of the characters are unlikable or participating in situations I find unbelievable that it kills a lot of the tension for me.  Especially the main thriller component, Alice.  Why any of the other characters are supposed to like her, the charisma she is supposed to exude, it's all lost on me.  She's odd, unlikable, and so obviously psychotic, the idea Katherine is supposed to be so enamored of her makes me quickly dislike Katherine too.

Totally beyond all of these issues is the fact this book so often strays into totally adult material and in such a way I feel like the publishers are trying to purposefully make it a cross over book.  Neither totally Adult nor totally Y.A., but some weird middle ground.  Maybe if they'd focused on one, they could have weeded out some of the problems and come out with a well written book, because lets face it, the only books that appeal to adults and kids/teens alike are the well written ones.  I was repeatedly reminded of that terrible movie Wild Things, not a flattering comparison.

In the end I was badly disappointed, and I'm not even remotely interested in the supposed "sexy, psychological thriller series"  Her publishers envisage her carrying on with.  Needless to say I didn't go to her interview, no need trying to pretend interest when I was so under-impressed by the book.

Beautiful Malice, By Rebecca James
Published by Faber and Faber, July 2010


  1. And that, ladies and gentleman, is how you write a negative review! Thanks for warning us, and for standing up to all the hype.

  2. well, have to call them as i see them. Of course there is less guilt since I bought it myself!