What is it all about?
Katherine has a secret. A tragedy imprisoned in her memory. One night her younger naïve-self made many mistakes, ultimately resulting in the traumatic murder of her fourteen year old sister, Rachel, which will never be forgiven or forgotten. Now living in a different town with her aunt, Katherine has changed everything about her persona. From Katie Boydell; a party-all-night girl who lived and breathed for fun, to Katherine Patterson; a wise, mature seventeen year old who isolates herself from everyone around her and is haunted by the regrets of her past. Katherine wants to escape, to be free from the burden she deserves to carry until her death.
Although everything changes when she meets Alice. Perfect Alice. Fun Alice. The girl Katherine used to know so well, the girl who lives for the present and has an ignorance-is-bliss attitude towards life and the world around her. She is honoured that such an amazing girl wants to befriend her and thus: she starts to enjoy life once again. However, still Katherine is lost in a web of lies and secrets. But, could it be that she is not the only one not telling the truth? Katherine believed that her problems were reaching an end; maybe they were only just beginning.
Australian author, Rebecca James’ thrilling debut novel, Beautiful Malice, is a breath of fresh air where friendship and sanity is questioned, keeping you captivated until the final page. James should be praised for her intriguing, coming-of-age tale with her storytelling style giving an enriched balance of detail and simplicity. She focuses on the key meanings of the novel instead of trailing off on another route, which would not benefit the complexity of the characters or the reader. It is easy to sympathise with the main characters as they emotionally connect with you.
The protagonist shares her story in alternating chapters ranging in three key time zones. Two are set in the past (one while her sister is still alive and the second when Katherine first meets Alice) and one in the present, set approximately five years later. Surprisingly, you are immediately told what becomes of Alice in the first chapter, but this answer subconsciously unravel to reveal questions and you become hypnotised by the book, wanting to read on to find out how close friends can turn into foes. Joining the two girls is Alice’s on/off lover, Robbie, who compares Alice to a “drug”; she is an addiction which he cannot give up. Katherine begins to open up for the first time about the events of her tragic past but this leads to drastic problems. When Alice begins to show her true colours, we start to witness the breakdown of their friendship, and more mysteries begin to appear.
Truth and lies. Courage and cowardice. So many elements are compressed inside the novels pages and that’s what makes it all the more interesting; divulging into our own human behaviour and emotions. James has evidently tackled many controversial issues revolving around teenagers, which are predominant in society. For example, sex, alcohol and teenage pregnancy. She has been exceptional in conveying the various stages of grief that we feel after death. Katherine is the perfect symbolism of a teenager who has reached a crisis and is trying to now repair her life. You want to reach out and help her, mend her while she struggles through her journey on the hope to finally gain peace.
The ending of the novel seems true in its own way. Even though you wish that some events could have been altered you realise that life always takes you on paths that you never wanted or never expected to go down and you just have to make the best of every moment, it could be your last.
Verdict: 4/5 James has offered something unique on the YA front.
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