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15th July
2010
written by Steph

Well, she got the malice part right at least...

From a great literary high to a nightmare of a novel, such is the bumpy road of a reader’s journey. When I was offered a review copy of international publishing sensation Rebecca James’s debut novel, Beautiful Malice, I was intrigued. This was the woman who had sprung from the wilds of Australia and was apparently poised to dethrone the juggernaut that is Stephenie Meyer. Seemed like fighting words to me, so I decided to see what James had on offer. At 17, Katherine Patterson has experienced more devastation and misery than your typical teen. Haunted by the events that destroyed her family, Katherine believes happiness is beyond her reach. She enrolls in a new high school, in a new city far from her childhood home, and even changes her last name, all in the hopes of one last chance at anonymity. Katherine is content to blend into the background and keep to herself, but when popular Alice Parrie takes an interest in her, Katherine finds she can’t resist her vibrant and alluring offer of friendship.  Together, the two charge headfirst into an exhilarating world of hedonism and excitement. Caught up in the rush of it all, Katherine begins to open up to Alice, never guessing that Alice might have some secrets of her own, secrets that are far more sinister and deadly than anything Katherine could imagine. Guys, this book was AWFUL. Y’all know I’m no Twilight fan (to put it mildly), so maybe the comparisons should have been an ample warning sign, but: yikes. This is a truly horrific display of writing and is likely one of the worst books I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading. I mean, it was one of those books where it just kept getting so ridiculous and outlandish that it actually become kind of fun to see how insane it would get. I think my favorite part (and by favorite, I clearly mean the worst part) is when Katherine tells her mother that she’s pregnant (this isn’t a spoiler at all as it’s revealed in the first chapter or so that she has a kid) and rather than responding as any mother would to the news that her teenage daughter is pregnant (i.e. with dismay and devastation), her mother is instead overjoyed! She’s just so darn happy her daughter is embracing life and bringing a new soul into the world. Which is obviously crazy. Because Katherine is 17. And this is not even getting into the fact that Katherine has only been dating the father of her child for something like three months if that. Clearly this isn’t news parents would embrace with open arms. I mean, I don’t think the Bella/Edward relationship that Meyer depicts is one for anyone to strive toward, but this takes things to a dizzyingly terrifying new low. I just wish I hadn’t given my copy to a friend to revel in the awful absurdity of this all, or else you can rest assured I would have quoted from the melodramatic passage in question. Not that quotes would bring anything extra to all of this, unless you like a heaping dollop of cheese alongside your poor prose. Because not only is the plot hackneyed and ludicrous, but the writing does nothing to elevate the material either. It’s pretty much as close as one can get to throwing out whatever words one can in order to get some semblance of plot on the page. Only what’s even sadder is that there are these awkward flourishes and turns of phrases that make it clear that James thinks she’s being artful. She’s legitimately trying to write well, and I guess this just goes to show that sometimes a little can-do spirit is not enough. I think my biggest issue with this novel - despite the bad writing and the storyline plotted in such a way as to make it the least titillating thriller ever - is that I could never figure out who it was meant for. Apparently overseas the book is being more heavily pushed in the YA market. The level of the writing certainly seems appropriate, as do some of the issues, but what with the unrealistic and irresponsible approach to teen pregnancy, as well as one rather disturbing (not to mention graphic) sexual scene, I cannot in good conscience recommend that this book be read by impressionable young girls. I can’t in good conscience recommend that this book be read by anyone, but certainly not tweens or whichever age-group it is that comprises the YA market. But I don’t get how this would appeal to adults either, and apparently that’s the group to whom the U.S. publisher is marketing.  Do most adults want to read an insipid story about an obsessive bad-girl friendship and the inanity that teenagers often get into? Somehow, I think not. I feel completely confident in saying that this is a book that is quite honestly meant for no one.

Make sure you enlarge for the full effect!

Finally, I realize that the version I read was an uncorrected proof and so may have had a few errors that were fixed before the final publication, but to a North American reader, this book is often incomprehensible at times. The international version makes it clear that the story is set in Australia, but it appears that the American version is going to based somewhere in the U.S. Only the culture that is portrayed in the book is completely unlike that found in any American city you’ve ever visited. For instance, teenagers who are still in highschool have their own apartments and easily go to bars and clubs. They use the word “mum” instead of “mom”, and “sit exams”… I actually assumed for the first half of the book that the book was in Australia, and only realized this couldn’t be the case when a character remarks on another character having an Aussie accent… which I had figured they all had up to that point. Essentially, I can only assume that whoever was responsible for converting the Aussie-isms to their North American counterparts just couldn’t be bothered because they realized that reading this book would melt your brain to mush and so maybe these inconsistencies are not really the worst of your problems. To end, I leave you with the following cover art which I found on the author’s blog at some point and saved because it is so unintentionally funny. I mean, who cares if I hated this book when “Famous Author” thinks it’s brilliant? Rating: 1 out of 5

23 Comments

  1. 07/15/2010

    I read on another blog about glaring inconsistencies in books – they were talking of historical fiction there where lots of what was said was not in keeping with the era and style of talking at the time.
    I guess this can apply to any novel, at any time and in any setting. You have got to be cautious about everything as otherwise it looks ludicrous!

  2. Oh dear! It is a shame you haven’t got any quotes – I’m sure they’d have entertained me 🙂

  3. 07/15/2010

    I know exactly what you mean – when a book starts out awful, I sometimes keep going just for the entertainment value!

  4. 07/15/2010

    Oh wow, a quote by “famous author”? This book sounds absolutely horrendous! I can’t imagine any circumstance where I would be overjoyed if my seventeen year old turned up pregnant either! The outlandish plot coupled with the “artistic” bad writing are enough to put me off, but after seeing that cover, I can only laugh. I actually think I may have snorted a little.

  5. Meg
    07/15/2010

    “Famous author” — ooh, that’s rich! Seriously. Wow. Just… wow. Okay.

    I’m not going anywhere near this book! Beyond having had more than my fill of Twilight and its billion and one spin-offs, I completely believe you when you say it’s horrifying. I recently read a book that was so bad it was almost unintentionally funny (this one), but I don’t think I have the energy to read more than one of those a year.

    Really enjoyed your review, though! 🙂

  6. Lu
    07/15/2010

    Whoa! I will be staying away. I kinda can’t wait for more bloggers to read this one so I can see their reviews too. Hopefully they will all make me laugh like this one did!

  7. 07/15/2010

    @ Mystica: It’s true that I think most people call out anachronistic inconsistencies with historical fiction, but I think you’re absolutely right that this can apply to any book! I mean, this book just did not make any sense being set in the United States!
     
    @ Jackie: I actually did a dramatic reading of my favorite part of this book for some friends, much to their great delight. I wish I hadn’t tossed the book just so I could share with you!
     
    @ rhapsody: Sometimes the schadenfreude value of certain books is too good to pass up. Once I realized this was going to be a trainwreck, I did want to see just how pear-shaped it would all go…
     
    @ zibilee: I admit, that when I found the “Famous Author” picture a trill of elation swept through me because I’m a terrible person and so finding something so goofy like that was the highlight of my day!
     
    @ Meg: Sometimes writing the reviews of books I don’t like is a lot more fun than writing about the books I do like! I mean, condolences to the author if she stumbles across this post but… she kind of deserves it!
     
    @ Lu: I am gratified to see that this book has been almost universally panned thus far on Amazon, so that is heartening to me. I’d hate to be the lone voice of dissent on this one. Because: SO BAD.

  8. mee
    07/15/2010

    How entertaining to read “extremely bad book” review once in a while ;). You’d wonder how this kind of book gets published. Surely someone in the agency and the publishing company truly believed in it? Otherwise, why bother? The Famous Author quote is unbelievable it’s like a joke. It seems that bad books are more likely to seep into YA genre. I guess it’s why I tend to avoid YA books.

  9. 07/15/2010

    Wow I think this is the most scathing review I’ve ever read from you! I enjoyed it immensely. 😀 I probably never would have picked up this book before anyway, but I’ll DEFINITELY stay away from it now.

  10. can you please just write reviews like this all day long? i was laughing so hard i snorted! while reading this review. you hold no punches and just let the well-earned criticism fly! i adore it. but, to be fair, the cover at the top of your review is a bit interesting…like a dead girl floating in a car in the river or something…

    i guess i’ll steer clear of this one, but i’m so glad you read it because your review is ‘off the hook’ as the kids used to say.

  11. 07/16/2010

    @ mee: I have no idea why anyone read this and thought it would be a hit, but I hope it fails spectacularly and those industry types who shelled out big bucks for it re-evaluate their purchasing policies. I know Twilight was a success in spite of the writing, but I have to think that writing for the lowest common denominator in every possible way will not guarantee success.
     
    @ Amanda: It’s very rare that I write so scathing a review because it’s rare that I pick up a book that is so bad! I admit, it was a fun review to write, and I’m sorry to Rebecca James for that, but this was not a good book and I think people need to know that!
     
    @ nat: Ha! I love to bring the snark, but I think I’m kind of glad I don’t have the opportunity to write reviews like this more frequently. I mean, they are fun to write, no doubt, but the actual reading that prefaces them is less rewarding. But of course I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  12. 07/17/2010

    This book wasn’t even on my radar, and I’ve never even heard of the author. But I had to drop by. I don’t know what this says about me: I love it when you rip a book to shreds. Granted, you give so many reasons as to why a book would be so horrendous — but, bottom line, I love it when you rip a bad book to shreds.

    Whenever I receive an uncorrected proof, I tend to proofread as I read and take notes. More than once, I’ve been tempted to contact the publicist who sent me the book to say, “Uh. I think you meant “your” instead of “you’re” in page 22. And “it’s” is not a possessive noun. See page 78.” :]

  13. 07/18/2010

    @ Sasha: Apparently the consensus is that I should read bad books more often! 😉 If only for the amusement of MY readers!
    And errors like the kind you mention are terrible in uncorrected proofs (because it means someone made the mistake in the first place), but I’ve seen them in official publications and that really makes me crazy!

  14. kay
    07/19/2010

    Eeek! I’m tempted to read it just to see how bad it is. I haven’t seen a positive review of this one yet.
    I like the second cover, but the best part of it really is the quote by Famous Author. Famous Author always makes GREAT recommendations!

  15. 07/19/2010

    @ kay: Famous Author for the win! If only I could find some of his (her?) books to read!

  16. 07/26/2010

    Sounds like a 3rd rate Hollywood movie was made into a book. There are so many of these movies floating around- prefect for a guilty night of movie watching, but hardly good resource material for YA books.

    Love the famous author recommendation 😀 . Justgoes to show how phony these recommendations actually are!

  17. 07/27/2010

    @ Nishita: I can only imagine that this book will eventually be made into a movie… though perhaps if it tanks in North America, which I’m thinking it might, it will just fade into oblivion… Here’s hoping!

  18. kiara
    04/19/2011

    are you all just judging, and havnt even read this book, its actually really wonderful and creative.

  19. 04/25/2011

    @ kiara: I can assure you, I did read this book in its entirety so everything I say, I feel I can legitimately do so. I’m glad to hear that you got so much enjoyment from this book, but I definitely did not!

  20. Angela
    06/04/2011

    Wow! Bitchy! I believe if your criticism isn’t constructive then don’t criticize! I’m with you Kiara. I actually enjoyed the read and so did a friend of mine. Don’t listen to a critic until you’ve read the book yourself. You might be pleasantly surprised.

  21. 06/06/2011

    @ Angela: It’s difficult to review books with the goal of being constructive since they are published and finished and my comments aren’t really aimed at the author but rather at fellow readers. My post was meant to express to others what my experience reading this book was like so that they can decide for themselves whether this is something they’d like to experience for themselves. It’s perfectly fine that you liked this book, but I definitely did not… I may have been bitchy in this post, but I do think the book earned any ire I threw at it!

  22. tessa
    06/21/2011

    well i thought this book was great and so does everyone i talk to. It is everyones favorite at the moment and we are all raving about how amazing it is.

  23. Toni
    08/30/2013

    i have no idea how you guys could hate such a book. Ive read the Australian version, cause i live there and its absolutely fantastic. The book was made for adult readers, however it can still relate to some teens/young adults. Ive read this book so many times and i would i definately loved it.

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