At the beginning of the year I told myself I would try and read at least two books a month and signed up for the Goodreads Book Challenge for 25 books. I am currently close to 80 books and we have a month left in the year. The other thing I told myself was that I would try and expand on the genres I read. I tried science fiction dystopia (Station Eleven), fantasy (The Kingkiller Chronicles), YA (too many to count) and Historical (The Nightingale, Gentleman in Moscow). The more I read, I realize part of honing the craft of writing is to understand how it is done. One way to do it would be to read books on the craft (On Writing by Stephen King) or actually read books and strip them to their bones.
Study each book you read to figure out the POV, the plot devices, the tropes, the background info, the introduction of characters. Most books I enjoyed had some things in common, a good story, fast paced narration and strong protagonists. The very same books also struggled with POV, with heavy info dumps and at times meandering tangents that did little to the story.
So, when I picked up Eileen Cook’s With Malice, I expected a fast paced read that I would probably enjoy and move on. What surprised me was how much I enjoyed deconstructing her book.
The story is well told, the narration gripping, the pace fast and the plot taut. The book has everything going for it as a YA thriller. The things I enjoyed most about it was the way the characters were introduced. You hear the story being told from the protagonist’s POV. The rest of the characters are emails exchanged, police reports, text messages, Facebook updates. Cook has her finger on the pulse of today’s tech savvy generation. The research is meticulous, the characters well etched and story definitely well told. One of the finer points of the book is that there is no background info dump. Everything that the reader needs to know about the characters, the location, the setting comes up organically. It is so seamless that I did not notice how cleverly it was done until I went back and read a few initial pages.
Pick this book if you are in the mood for a thriller with an unreliable narrator like The Girl on the Train. Pick it up if you are a writer and want an example of a well written book. Pick it up if you are looking for a quick read that is contemporary.
Pick it up!