Author: Lauren Kate
Release date: 6th Jan 2011 UK
Genre: Contemporary YA Fiction
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
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.
This novel is a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth. While not following the plot of Macbeth exactly, it incorporates all of the play's crucial elements - intrigues and plotting for a top place.
The story is set in a rich American Southern community; more precisely, in Palmetto high school. Natalie Hargrove, a popular and beautiful Palmetto girl, is, just like Lady Macbeth, a social climber, bent on being the best and envied. She wants to win the title of Palmetto Princess with her boyfriend Mike King as Palmetto Prince and this occupies her every thought.
She is an unpleasant, conceited girl, determined to put her poor past and embarrassing father behind and be truly accepted by the rich, but she is powerful, as she has the right looks and good connections, so there are always people ready to flock to her and help Natalie achieve her desideratum. Everything seems to work for Natalie according to her plan, but one evening, she comes up with a prank to defeat her boyfriend's greatest rival, Justin Balmer or simply J.B. - a prank that goes terribly wrong. It is when the true drama begins, as well as Natalie's unravelling.
The characters seem to be mainly one-dimensional and slightly bland, but Natalie, the protagonist, was well outlined and faithful to the person of Lady Macbeth. Natalie is not a good person. She does not care about consequences; she only cares about her goal, about herself. Yet she still appears human. There is a vulnerability about her that makes her very human, after all, and, although this is not excusable, she has good reasons for her cold, superior behaviour. She is obsessed with wealth and social status and it all stems from Natalie's deep insecurity because of the past.
I thought the high-school setting was not that good to create good plotting and vicious scheming, but it worked to a degree. Mostly, the plotting seemed bland and lacked the intensity shown in Macbeth, but it was fun to read about and, although I am familiar with the play, left me guessing. I believe, though, that it could have been made more intense, as at times, the plotting seemed more like high-school girls trying to appear 'badass'. The plot also moved a bit slow at first and then began to rush, making the most important events less important. A few additional chapters might have done the trick.
What I really liked, though, were the subtle references to the original that appear throughout the novel. They won't bother those not who are familiar with the play and will surely delight those who are. The ending is loyal to the original. I didn't get the feeling that justice was served, but the ending certainly offers closure.
All in all, this is a good take on adapting Macbeth for modern readers. It lacks some elements that would have made it better, but it is an entertaining read that might just make you want to brush up your knowledge about Macbeth. I definitely recommend it to fans of Lauren Kate's Fallen series.
Becky says: Great review Irena. I still think that this one is not my kind of thing. It is the high school setting and knowing what a Lady Macbeth character will be like and how spineless Macbeth is. It doesn’t inspire me to read this. But how great to have a novel that students will be able relate to and help them to further understand the play.
Both our thanks go to Random House Children’s Books for sending the book to review.