All it takes is one fatal mistake . . .
High-school beauty Natalie Hargrove has spent years plotting to become prom queen. She’s got just what it takes: popularity, glamour and ruthless ambition. When someone threatens to overturn her perfect plan, Natalie needs to take control. But a critical error plunges her into a sea of secrets, shame and scandal. Because it turns out there’s one thing even Natalie Hargrove can’t command – and that’s fate.
I picked this book up as I was eager to sample Lauren Kate's writing but didn't want to dive into Fallen. The story centres around Natalie Hargrove and her need to be crowned Palmetto Princess- the whole story takes place in such a relatively short time for so much to happen. Natalie sees it as the defining moment of her transformation from Cawdor trailer park to Palmetto Queen Bee. Her boyfriend Mike King doesn't take it as seriously and it is paramount that they be crowned together as the alternative prince is J.B, Natalie's long time rival. This one desire sparks off an unfortunate chain of events for Natalie. I loved how the first chapter really set up the social hierarchy and importance of the Palmetto Court in the eyes of the students and to a certain extent their families, it made some of the decisions and small things make sense.
I actually found Natalie likable. Behind her shallow greed and single-mindedness, I could see a girl thrown off course by one harmless prank who was just desperate to keep the life she fought so hard for. The prank they play on J.B would have been seen as a meaningless joke if not for a tragic secret. I felt for Natalie as she seemed to have few real friends to turn to and Mike turned out to be rather weak willed. I did feel her back story could have afforded at least another chapter to show how she'd got to where she was. For example, Natalie's father makes a comeback in her life but this is never really dealt with which frustrated me.
The supporting cast of characters are very well fleshed out and complex. Mike was a very good boyfriend to begin with his laid back attitude did complement Natalie’s determination however this coupled with his inability to do what he thought was right or follow through really annoyed me. He claimed he wanted to come forward after the prank but it didn't take much for Natalie to persuade him and then he just didn't commit to the cover up like she did. A lot of side characters did seem to be there solely for plot movement or to add pressure etc and flitted in and out of importance. Natalie's potential stepsister seemed quite meek and submissive then suddenly grown a backbone which seemed rather out of character. However, due to the viewpoint of the story, you never got to see their true motives or feelings and this confusion did enhance Natalie’s isolation.
The ending felt a bit abrupt to me. The explanation of Natalie and J.B's rivalry was very subtly hinted at throughout the book and then thrown in at the end. I feel it could have been brought up earlier or been more obvious as it made Natalie's actions towards J.B much less vindictive and bitchy. However, the sudden ending was very effective. It tied up loose ends but left you wondering about small side plots such as how J.B really felt about Natalie, what happened to Baxter and how the investigation went. Which in a way is very clever as it keeps you thinking
With the UK blurb, I missed the fact that it is a Macbeth retelling/reimagining, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if I’d known, (Macbeth holds bad memories of exams!). However once I knew it was hard not to see connections and pick out little links to the Play. I loved the portrayal of the Witches as New Age juniors who were just going through a rebellious hippy phase. I liked the fact that Natalie was clearly the more ambitious one so she saw the apparitions, made the decisions, consulted the 'witches' and was the stronger person rather than Mike (Macbeth). However, I found Natalie to be a much more sympathetic character than either Macbeth or Lady Macbeth. I enjoyed that the 'wrong side of the tracks' where Natalie came from was named Cawdor and that Mike's surname was King, these little links were cleverly slotted in and didn't detach from the plot. Thinking about it now I can think of so many character parallels and connections that I didn't pick up straight up that I almost want to reread both Macbeth and Natalie.
This book engaged me from start to finish with a fast paced plot, well developed and complex characters and a very clever setting. I am so glad I brought it because I will definitely be picking it up again and again!
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