Charleston beauty Natalie Hargrove has been dreaming for years of being crowned senior class prom queen. When her ex threatens to ruin her flawless plan, Natalie sets into motion a chain of events meant to regain control. But she’s made one fatal mistake . . .
Published shortly before Lauren Kate’s international bestseller Fallen,The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove is her memorable debut – reissued now for the first time with a dazzling new cover look! A contemporary story based on the enduring classic Macbeth, this grounded, realistic novel has what it takes to backlist forever.
This book leaves me in a sort of quandary, because ultimately I’m not sure how I feel about it. There were times while reading it that I was gripped with a variety of emotions; there were some funny moments, some sweet moments, and a nice sense of atmosphere and intrigue. But all of that was overwhelmed by the fact that I … really didn’t like the main character, Natalie, at all. I knew I’d have some trouble with her literally from the first time she appears on the page, and it just went downhill from there as she made consistently worse and worse mistakes, including treating those she felt “below” her like absolute garbage. To put it bluntly, Natalie is not a nice person, and while you come to understand her motivations as the book goes on, none of the revelations did anything to me personally to help bring me around to her.
It’s difficult to even discuss the plot of this book because I don’t want to give away spoilers. While you can sort of grasp what happens from the summary, there were plenty of twists and turns that come out during the narrative to leave you sort of on the edge of your seat. While Natalie is one of those girls who picked herself up from a bad childhood and remade herself into something completely different, I don’t think she really honestly learned anything. She was conniving, a definite slut-shamer, and all-around terrible person. You can only listen to her pretend to be fake to someone’s face and then badmouth them behind their backs for so long; considering I don’t have a tolerance for that on the best of days, I’m certainly not going to like that quality in a fictional character.
The other thing that got me was this very weird high school that Natalie attended. The idea of a prom queen – or Palmetto Princess – is certainly understandable, but the weird social cliques, the group of sophomore girls who “service” the football players, the strange rumor mill via passed notes, the morning meetings via bean bag chair circles in the girls’ bathroom, all of that was just odd and – for lack of a better word – unbelievable. I was IN high school once, and while cliques are a definite part of the high school experience, all of that other stuff was just too over the top for me to fully comprehend or believe. Then again, I don’t live in a world of trust funds and country club memberships, so perhaps that really is how schools like that work? Regardless, I was never able to place myself in the world she was describing, which just further alienated me from Natalie and the plot of the book.
Ultimately, the only thing that kept me reading was seeing how Natalie might get her comeuppance, and that definitely caught me by surprise. There are so many sleazy characters in this book that it’s hard to pinpoint the worst one. When you come out far more sympathetic for the book’s victim – who was no prince himself – than its exceedingly popular narrator, you know the story probably just didn’t work for you at all.
This was my June 2013 Random Reads pick.