Sunday, 15 May 2011

Review: The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate

Dear blog,
I'm sorry I haven't posted anything for like a week.  Two reasons: 1) I've been kind of busy this weekend, and 2) I haven't actually been reading much YA recently, so haven't really had an awful lot to review.

Summary (from Goodreads): Natalie Hargrove would kill to be her high school’s Palmetto Princess. But her boyfriend Mike King doesn’t share her dream and risks losing the honor of Palmetto Prince to Natalie’s nemesis, Justin Balmer. So she convinces Mike to help play a prank on Justin. . . one that goes terribly wrong. They tie him to the front of the church after a party—when they arrive the next morning, Justin is dead.
From blackmail to buried desire, dark secrets to darker deeds, Natalie unravels. She never should’ve messed with fate. Fate is the one thing more twisted than Natalie Hargrove.  Cruel Intentions meets Macbeth in this seductive, riveting tale of conscience and consequence.

Review:   This is Lauren Kate's debut novel, but [as far as I know] it was only released this year here in the sceptr'd isle.  It's a retelling of Macbeth, but because I've never read any Shakespeare, I didn't realise this until about twenty pages from the end.  So the first thing that struck me about it is how different it is from the Fallen books.  There are no fallen angels to be found, no love triangles (which I was kind of relieved about because I swear, they lurk between the pages of whatever I read these days).  The only things that are the same are the fact that it's narrated by a girl, and the fact that both are set largely in and/or around a school.

Even though I found it pretty impossible to warm to Natalie, I still think she was a great  character.  She was cold, shallow and cunning, and knew how to get exactly what she wanted.  She just...didn't go about it the right way, and as she gets caught up in reaching her goal and becoming the Palmetto Princess things spiral entirely out of control. 
Still, even though her characteristics and such weren't really a big hit with me, she was fantastically created. I loved the parts of the book that went back to her past, and how more and more of her story was gradually revealed, because that really gave depth to a character who otherwise I wouldn't have been so keen on.  She's an entirely perfect example of proving the point that just because a main character isn't a genuinely good person, they should still be well-rounded and three-dimensional.

The setting of Palmetto High was pretty ideal for such a story, even though the school itself was questionable. There are next to no references to exams, homework etc., and one of the characters spends so much time hanging out in the bathrooms she has a beanbag there.  Really?  From my experience of secondary schools, the toilets are not nice places, and surely a library is a much better place to hang out..?

The pacing was pretty perfect all the way through, and the tension gradually built up throughout the book until the conclusion.  At some points it felt almost slightly suffocating or claustrophobic, and Natalie and Mike made me facepalm a couple of times as they went to more and more dire lengths to try and shift the blame and rid themselves of the crime that they had committed.  It was like there was no way out for them, and whatever they tried to to they just got further and further entangled in messing with their fate.

I'm not sure what  I made of the ending, which was entirely open and left a lot of questions to be answered.   Natalie and Mike's actions certainly seemed very desperate when you consider how it all started, and it was kind of sad how much their social status and such depended on being the Palmetto prince and princess and how far both of them were willing to go to get it.   But then if I had to try and end what they had started, I don't know what I would have done. 
But to conclude; power is entirely over-rated anyway, especially if you have to mess with other people's lives to get it.

In three words: Superb characterisation.  Intriguing.
Recommended for: Girls who like Macbeth. Also fans of books like Private, Gossip Girl and such.  This book is like a twisted amalgamation of the two.
Rating: 3

Thank you to Random House UK for sending me a copy for review.

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