Eileen Cook has an impressive array of published books including the following: Remember, Year of Mistaken Discoveries, The Almost Truth, Used to Be, Do or Di, Unraveling Isobel, and The Education of Hailey Kendrick. Her latest book is With Malice.
With Malice opens when Jill Charron wakes up in the hospital hooked up to beeping machines and with her leg in traction suspended above her. She is uncertain where she is or why. The majority of the book takes place in the hospital and later in rehab where Jill, an honor student and Yale-bound high school senior, tries to regain her memory.
Suffering from temporary amnesia, Jill cannot remember the accident that put her into the hospital. She has a six-week gap in her memory. She last fully remembers the high school play her class performed. She has no memory of the long-awaited trip to Italy where the accident occurred.
Jill has the almost mandatory rich father with a second wife and a set of twins, leaving his long-suffering first wife, Jill’s mother, to raise Jill. Keith Charron hires an expensive lawyer, Evan Stanley, to protect Jill. Italian detectives fly to the US to interrogate Jill with Stanley present. The detectives are investigating the death of Jill’s best friend Simone who died in a car accident in Italy when Jill was driving a car. The students on the trip are not supposed to be driving while they are in Italy, so everyone is mystified about why the two girls are in the car.
Jill is the honor student and unlikely best friends with Simone who has potential as a student, but she is more interested in fun and parties. Jill says they are like two halves, complementing one another. They have been best friends since fourth grade. While Jill has already been accepted at Yale, Simone thinks she will take a year after high school to figure out what she wants to do instead of enrolling in the local community college. The trip to Italy seems like a dream come true for the two of them, or does it?
Jill signs up for the Italy trip as soon as she learns about it. Simone is accepted much later. Does some friction occur between the two about the trip? While the group is in Italy, one of the local guides is a handsome young Italian man, one whom all the girls are swooning over, except Jill who continues to focus on the experience of the trip until she, too, falls for Nico. Does Nico create tension between the two girls?
When the Italian detectives question Jill, they show her a bloody knife they say is covered with Simone’s blood. Later, the detectives determine Jill’s fingerprints are on the knife as well. Has Jill stabbed Simone and then staged the car wreck to kill the two of them? What has happened on the trip in Italy?
In rehab, Jill rooms with Anna, a girl whose boyfriend pushed her down a flight of stairs, rendering her legs paralyzed. They are unlikely friends, from very different worlds, but they do become friends. Anna helps Jill come to terms with losing Simone, her best friend. Anna also helps Jill navigate the rehab center since Anna has been there longer.
With Malice may remind readers about Amanda Knox who was accused of murdering her roommate when they were both students in Italy. Certainly, the Knox trial and continuing sensational news stories would come to mind because Jill faces much the same kind of negative publicity. Cook also incorporates social media into With Malice. Between chapters, Cook has included posts from blogs and Facebook pages, often negative comments about Jill. Cook is not the only author to make use of social media as part of the story. In addition, Cook adds transcripts of interrogations between police and other students on the trip as well as the adult supervisors and Nico, who is a bit full of himself.
Eileen Cook’s books have been published in eight languages. Some of her books have been optioned for film and TV, so she is a YA author of note. I am not sure I will read another of her books; the ending of With Malice is a bit off-putting to me. Still, I don’t regret reading this one. I did find Cook’s biography interesting. She grew up in a small town in Michigan, but lived in Boston and Belgium before moving to Vancouver, CA.