Book Review: With Malice

26153925With Malice by Eileen Cook

Series: Standalone

Expected Publication by HMH Books For Young Readers on June 7, 2016

Genres: Contemporary, Crime, Death, Fiction, Mystery, Realistic Fiction, Suspense, Thriller, Young Adult

Pages: 320

Format: eARC from Netgalley

Rating: ★.5

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository


A read about a teenage girl who wakes up in a hospital bed and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend–only what if the accident wasn’t an accident?

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 6 weeks should be. She comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy three days previous but 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.



Critical Rating: 

Entertainment Rating: 

Overall Rating: ★.5

Plot: Medium to Fast Paced | Compelling | Some Unexpected Twists and Turns | Quick & Addictive Read

Characters: Unreliable (Memory Loss) | Delves Into Family Issues & Relationships | A Bit One Dimensional & Unlikeable | Grows On You Over Time | Stereotyped Side Characters

World Building: None (Contemporary / Realistic Fiction) | Scattered Elements of Italy | Detailed Descriptions Of The Rehabilitation Centre | Social Media & It’s Effects

Writing: 1st Person POV | Smooth & Easy To Read | Uses A Variety of Formats (IMs, Facebook, Police Interrogations, Interviews, Newspaper Articles, Letters, Postcards, etc)  | Fitting For The Genre


*I received a free ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.   


With Malice was definitely not a game changer in the YA mystery genre, yet it had the magical touch of being just compelling enough for it to never leave my hands. Apart from the beautiful cover, I was initially drawn into this book because of the great reviews it had received from my friends. Almost everyone was comparing it to Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train and while I could see the similarities, it was different enough to bring something a little new and unique to the table.

Clearly based on the Amanda Knox trial, the story follows Jill Charron, a typical teenage girl with a bright future ahead of her. Intelligent, soft spoken and furiously loyal, she is the last person who would be suspected for murder. Yet she is. And this isn’t just any murder. It’s the potential murder of her best friend Simone. The girl who was suppose to be as close to Jill as her own blood sister. Yet although Jill gets straight As and perfect scores on her SAT exam year after year, (I mean she IS going to Yale) she cannot remember for the life of her the last six weeks. The weeks when Jill was in Italy. The weeks when Simone was still alive. The weeks when everything went wrong. 

“We were closer than sisters. We hung out with other people, but they were just the extras. We were the core.”

In a mystery like With Malice, the main character has to be one of two things in order to be rooted for. She either a) needs to be likeable or b) needs to have a good alibi. Jill Charron is neither of these things. She comes off as rather superficial and snobby at first, with her rich daddy coming to her rescue the moment she gets in trouble and her alibi being as clear as a foggy day. But somehow she grows on you. It’s not pleasant at first I’ll admit that, but she does slowly (extremelyyy slowly 😂  ) and surely warm your heart. Despite all of her numerous flaws, I found her to be relatable. (I’m guessing all of you are gone by now- I just said I related to a potential murderer…) Shiny and brand new on the outside yet broken within, Jill is an exceptional portrayal and reminder that the real people inside the shells are not nearly as easily seen.

That being said, the side characters in With Malice were not nearly fleshed out and multi dimensional as I would have liked. The majority of them were mere people passing by- there for a moment, gone the next. Worst of all were the frustrating cliches and stereotypes place upon certain characters. The Italian police in particular were horrific to read about, the way they talked, the way they acted was top notch cringe worthy and just plain wrong. Anna’s lawyer was also terrible in his own way and Anna’s dad was *sigh*… Let’s just not talk about Anna’s dad. Despite all of the negativity in this paragraph, there actually was a character that I really adored. Anna, Jill’s roommate was the fresh breath of air that was oh so necessary in this hot mess. She was funny, quirky, differentand every time she appeared on the page, I was one happy camper.

“You can’t tell anything about a person when things are great. If you really want to know someone, be there when everything goes to hell.” 

Normally, the world building isn’t an aspect I often talk about in realistic fiction but that was one of the things that really stood out to me. Girl goes missing / gets murdered, the prime suspect is her husband / best friend / sibling, we all know the drill by now. Yet what is different in this case is that the incident unravels in Italy, a foreign country where neither of the girls are from. This change of setting made for an extremely interesting twist on the not so special synopsis and I really enjoyed spending half of my time in the past in Italy and half of my time in the present in the United States. There also was a large chunk of time spent in the rehabilitation centre with a realistic portrayal of the recovery process. Though hard to read at times, the fact that Cook didn’t just brush off the struggles of recovering from a horrific accident (both physically and mentally) was a really noble thing for her to do. Another positive for me about this book was Cook’s intricate way of weaving a variety of formats to tell her story. Not only do we get Jill’s perspective with the missing details, we also get to read IM messages, Facebook posts, newspaper articles, interviews with witnesses, police interrogations, letters, and so much more. Again, this could have potentially gone in polar opposite ways but in With Malice, the different formats worked together to create a smooth writing style.

Although we can talk all day long about the writing style and the characters, the core of mysteries really come downs to it’s plot. And With Malice for sure is a very much plot driven book. The characters aren’t exactly worthy of remembering but the storyline definitely is. I can’t say that anything about this book really threw me for a loop, but the small twists and turns we do get were fairly well executed. The thing that I was truly disappointed about was the ending. It fell quite flat for me and though I didn’t know the details of what I wanted, the thing I know for sure was that this wasn’t it.

Anna looked at me as if I was delusional, “It doesn’t matter what’s true- what matters is what people believe.” 

All in all, despite the story being very much similar to other YA mystery novels, Eileen Cook was able to give her newest release a clean, fresh breath. With Cook’s natural talent for writing clearly shown off in this addictive and fast paced story, With Malice is a book I would strongly recommend to readers (both old and new) with even the slightest interest in the darker contemporary genre. 

Note: All quotations are taken from the uncorrected proof and may differ from the finished copy. They’re subject to change.


Have you read With Malice or are you planning to? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Thanks for reading lovelies xoxo,

-Jenna <3-

Find me here!



4 thoughts on “Book Review: With Malice

  1. The Literary Lioness says:

    This sounds right up my alley lol. Did you ever read Cartwheel? It’s an adult novel inspired by the Knox trial it was a really interesting read. And there’s that new show Guilt premiering in June which is also inspired by Know so definitely an Amanda Know heavy year lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • FictionalNeverland says:

      Cartwheel sounds so interesting! I’m definitely going to have to check it out on Goodreads 😘 As for the show, I haven’t heard of it yet but yep, there’s for sure a lot of talk about the Amanda Knox trial.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s