Saturday, January 23, 2010

Book Review: The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate

Title: The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove
Author: Lauren Kate
Genre: YA
Publisher: Razorbill 
Paperback:  248 pages
ISBN:  1595142657
Summary:  All it takes is one fatal mistake...
What she wanted:  Natalie Hargrove wants one thing and one thing only - to be her high school's Paletto Princess.  Among the other Southern Belles, a.k.a. Bambies, competing for the crown, she's by far the most beautiful, and the most deserving.  Or so she thinks.
The catch:  Her boyfriend, Mike King, is on the brink of losing Palmetto Prince to Nat's nasty nemesis Justin Balmer.  And let's just say Natalie and Justin have a history so shady it could wither flowers.  Sure, Natalie could share the throne with Justin - over her dead body.
The trick:  So Nat convinces Mike to help her play a naughty little prank on Justin... just to make him look bad.  Little do they know, their plan is about to go terribly, terribly wrong.
The fatal flaw:  Natalie and Mike desperately try to cover up what happened to Justin.  But blackmail and buried desire, dark secrets and even darker deeds slowly begin to tear the apart.  Because as it turns out, fate is the one thing more twisted than Natalie Hargrove.  [Cover image provided by & summary taken from the back  of the book.]
Overall rating: 7/10
To buy this book:  Powell's | Amazon | The Book Depository | IndieBound
Add this book to your:  Goodreads | Shelfari | LibraryThing | Visual Bookshelf

Macbeth meets Gossip Girl in this dark tale of ambition gone wrong.  Natalie Hargrove & her mother have climbed the South Carolina social ladder one morally ambiguous step at a time, and as the novel opens they both have their sights set on gold.  As her mother pursues a wealthy man in an effort to secure financial freedom & an elevated social status, Natalie sets her sights on securing the title of Palmetto Princess (essentially the wealthy high school's very celebrated prom queen).  In fact, Natalie has spent the past few years building a foundation of popularity designed to guarantee her the crown, and as the competition nears her ambition becomes obsessively focused on securing both the Palmetto Princess title for herself & the Palmetto Prince title for her popular & malleable boyfriend, Mike King.  Natalie has Lady Macbeth's aggressive determination and a willingness head into murky moral territory to pursue her goals, and she has Macbeth's unquenchable desire for the crown (as well as his paranoia about losing it).  When the prank she devises to remove her boyfriend's competition for Palmetto Prince takes a fatal turn, Natalie's ambitious nature is put to the test.  Although she struggles with some of the dark consequences of her actions, her determination never wavers. 

Mike King plays what could be considered a very watered-down Macbeth.  He too wants the crown & the title, but he does not share even one tenth of Natalie's single-minded determination, and he often hesitates to continue their pursuit once the waters begin to get murky. The Scottish play's violent & bloody elements are replaced by the backstabbing emotional cruelty of a high school with a brutal social hierarchy.   As in Macbeth, the women are often the more aggressive wielders of power here, and their primary weapons are social manipulation & skillfully orchestrated deceitfulness.  True to Macbeth, hallucinations & prophecy both play a roll as the story unfolds.  But all of the Shakespearean parallels aside, readers may find themselves so caught up in the Gossip Girl style drama of the high school scene, that they won't see the end coming.

What I Liked:
  • This is an ambitious book.  A Macbeth-inspired story set against a catty high school backdrop could have been completely predictable or such a literal retelling that it lost its own voice.  As it turns out, Natalie definitely has her own unique (often despicable, occasionally pitiable) voice & the plot does not follow the play so closely that you see everything coming from six miles away.
  • Relying on a relatively unsympathetic protagonist to carry the narrative is always risky.  Not all readers are willing to follow a largely unlikeable character through her rise to & fall from grace, but Natalie's mysterious past will keep readers turning the pages even if they find her reprehensible.
  • Natalie's home life and history add a compelling depth to her character.
  • The quick pace stays consistent throughout the story, making it a fast & entertaining read.
What I Wished:
  • I wanted Mike to have more personality & a larger roll to play.  He felt a bit two dimensional to me.
  • I didn't fully believe some of the descriptions of Natalie's past, given the very young age she must have been at the time.
  • As a fan of Macbeth, I actually wanted the book to parallel the play a little more closely & would have liked it to be a little darker.
  • A few of the sub-plots & lesser characters seemed underdeveloped to the point that they weren't particularly necessary.  The story would have benefited from either developing those elements further or from cutting them out altogether.
This book will appeal to fans of Gossip Girl, Heathers, Cruel Intentions, and contemporary takes on Shakespeare.  If you want to learn more about The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove or about Lauren Kate's other recent release, Fallen, and its upcoming sequel, Torment, please visit her website, blog, and twitter.  

Happy Reading!  :-)


Lea said...

Awesome review (and I love how you set yours up)! This one sounds like a great, quick read :)

Violet said...

Thanks so much for your comments! The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove really is a quick, interesting read. :)

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