Title: Beautiful Malice
Author: Rebecca James
Release Date: July 13, 2010
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Katherine Patterson is the quiet girl at her high school. Once popular and outgoing, since the tragic death of her sister, she has switched schools and kept a low profile. That is, until Alice Parrie, a beautiful girl in her class, seeks her out and decides to become friends with her. Katherine is thrilled, until Alice’s self-destructive tendencies begin to show and Katherine becomes convinced Alice is going to take everyone close to her down with her.
Beautiful Malice is a book that’s hard to classify. It isn’t a mystery, though there is the mystery of Alice’s behavior, Katherine’s sister’s death, and where Katherine has ended up in the present. It’s not really a thriller, though it is a taut, suspenseful novel. Contemporary fiction seems like the best description, since almost anything can fit into that catch-all category.
Katherine is a sweet girl who bears tremendous guilt over the death of her sister. She has tried to move on by switching schools, yet she is unable to face the gaping hole in her life and her role in it. At first, it seems like Alice is helping Katherine deal with this difficult situation, but it becomes clear that Alice is only interested in helping herself. Her narcissism makes her incredibly destructive; anything that isn’t about her isn’t really worth her time.
The novel is told using different timelines – there’s Katherine in the present, Katherine in the past with Alice, and even before that, Katherine’s sister’s death. It does jump around a lot, and though it’s usually relatively easy to tell where and when you are, sometimes it can be confusing. At the same time, though, James heightens the suspense by using this device; it’s done very effectively.
Beautiful Malice isn’t exactly a deep psychological study; it’s much more on the surface, though it is a very interesting portrayal of narcissism. The subject matter is heavy, but the book itself is a relatively light, quick read. If you’re in the mood for a suspenseful book whose pages will turn quickly, this novel would be a great one to pick up. It would also make a good book club read, as it will provoke very mixed opinions and there is a lot to discuss within its pages.