Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Girl Called Malice (Popping The Cherry #2) by Aurelia B. Rowl

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You know that girl. The one that the whole school’s social life seems to revolve around. 

Alice used to be that girl until she decided to quit sixth form college. Suddenly her ‘friends’ aren’t so interested in following her around and her attention-grabbing behaviour is about to get her kicked out of home. With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, her world starts spiralling seriously out of control.

Only new friend Zac Newton seems to believe in her. Lifeguard and poolside hottie, Zac is quite literally her lifesaver. But then, he’s never met ‘Malice’, her mean-girl alter ego, and Alice wants to keep it that way. She knows this is her last chance for a fresh start until her sordid past catches up with her at the worst possible moment.

As everything Alice has worked towards comes crashing down around her, she realises that the hardest thing of all is being yourself…

If any of you have read Popping The Cherry (I really hope you have), you’ll already be familiar with Alice, more popularly known as Malice. For those of you who aren’t, simply put, she’s that mean girl at school who makes your life miserable and she relishes every moment of it. Yeah, stay clear of this one!  In Malice, this mean girl decides to leave school and her friends behind because she’s had enough of school life. That’s partly thanks to her role in the awful prank gone foul that she played on Lena in the previous book. The repercussions were to big for her to be able to play them off. Leaving school and to be a waitress seems the better option.

The tone of this book is entirely different from Cherry.  I was not expecting to get behind Alice’s painstakingly maintained façade. Almost immediately, you’re introduced to her dysfunctional home life that goes a long way in explaining why Alice is the bitter, lizard-tongued monster that she is. Yet you also see her vulnerable side thanks to her tender relationship with her younger half-brother, Charlie. These two sides of her are both eyebrow-raising and sad. Many of you may already know how much I disdain inept parenting. Alice’s mother is probably THE worst of the bunch. In order to hook her current husband, she insisted that Alice not refer to her as “mum” but by her name Michelle, essentially fooling her husband-to-be at the time into thinking that they were sisters. This pretense has gone on for years and even Charlie has grown up believing that his sister is his aunt. Yes, this is all shades of messed up, her mother is a wretched human being and any scene involving her had me desperately hoping that she’d get hers soon.

Even with her home life as an explanation, I still had a hard time endorsing Team Alice especially when she’s intent on being a malicious bully. The flip side of it is that her mother’s consistent berating of her fuels her own self-destruction. It’s difficult to witness as she goes through hell and pushes away everyone she comes into contact with, save her beloved little brother. Her saving grace comes in the form of Zac, a boy she meets at a rather awkward moment. He sees Alice differently and even when she misbehaves, he knows that she’s essentially acting out. He takes his time to make her feel comfortable around him as he genuinely believes in her. Zac seems almost TOO perfect at times. As an example, he’s so forgiving when the sordid details of Alice’s one night gone awry come out. He doesn’t even blink an eye as he’s quick to defend her.

Rowl has done an impressive job in writing Malice, so impressive that despite the main character’s epic flaws, I was still very much invested in her and everyone else - except for the mother. She could bite it. I was glad that she was digging into Alice’s issues. The entire time it had me thinking about how no one ever really knows what the other is going through. That’s exactly what’s happening here where we get to see what circumstances make this particular bully. And when Alice decides to cut ties with her past and everyone in it later on, it’s not so much heartbreaking as it is emancipating. I couldn’t believe that I had come around to being her biggest cheerleader! And for a future for her and Zac.

Malice also welcomes back our favourite friends from Cherry – Lena, Jake, Nathan and Gemma. They’re so much fun, and considering how Alice and Lena were mortal enemies before, they’re reunion is quite interesting. It just goes to show you that sometimes even the worst of the bunch can find forgiveness though not without jumping through hoops first.

A Girl Called Malice, while not the fun romp through ridiculousness that I was hoping for, ends up being far better. The "wow" factor here is that this completely awful person became someone I cared about and for whom I wanted good things to happen to. When you think about it, it takes a certain talent for an author to turn your opinion around about a character. Rowl has done that excellently here!

~ Bel

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