The Cover: Simple yet dramatic Girl in a Dress Cover. I love the color and shape of the dress, but I want more. It’s a royal ball, right? Where’s the tiara-worthy undo? The shoes? What do the front and back of the dress look like? What about the infamous crown? Missing a few goodies but overall aesthetically pleasing. The first edition copy with the lavender dress is my favorite, but the waterfall does add some mystique to the UK cover.
Back Blurb: Natalie Hargrove has been dreaming for years of being crowned senior class prom queen. She’s got everything it takes: beauty, popularity, and ambition.
When a boy from her past 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…
Blackmail and buried desire, dark secrets and even darker deeds cause Natalie to unravel.
Because, it turns out, fate is the one thing more twisted than Natalie Hargrove.
The Book: There are two main reasons I chose to read this book: One – Girl in a pretty purple dress; and Two – I’ve read all of Lauren Kate’s other books. There were things I liked about the Fallen and Teardrop series and things I didn’t. The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove is her debut novel. I wanted to see how LK’s earlier writing compared to her more recent books, and also what kind of story she would tell with a Contemporary theme as opposed to Fantasy. I can definitely say I was impressed with Natalie Hargrove and that it’s my favorite LK novel to date.
Fun Fact: LK based Palmetto on the high school she herself attended, Plano Senior High School in Texas.
The Plot: The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove is a modern retelling of Macbeth. It’s loosely based on the overall story, set in present day Charleston, South Carolina. Popular southern belle Natalie Hargrove wants nothing more than to be crowned Palmetto Princess alongside her boyfriend Mike. The Palmetto Ball is akin to a Sweet Sixteen, Homecoming Court, and Miss America pageant all rolled into one. The highly coveted Palmetto High School Prince and Princess titles rule the social scene in Charleston, and not just to the interest of the students. The old-money parents of Palmetto kids, many of whom were beauty queens and former Palmetto royals, mold their children into Palmetto Court candidates from birth. Natalie’s boyfriend, Mike King, comes from four generations of Palmetto royals. His wealthy parents assume he’s a shoo-in for the crown and expect nothing less. Natalie, however, comes from a background less ideal than her debutante cohorts, which she tries desperately to hide.
Natalie is popular, but nobody knows who she was before Palmetto. She’s trying to escape the ghosts of her trailer park past and hide her perpetually drunk mother’s social climbing ways. Winning the crown means everything to her. She’ll be admired, important, and most of all, loved. She’ll finally be rid of the girl she once was.
But Mike doesn’t feel the same way. He couldn’t care less about his family’s expectations and superficial traditions. When Natalie learns that a boy from her past, Justin Balmer, has a chance at winning the crown, she is determined to do what she can to prevent that from happening. She pulls a cruel prank that goes horribly wrong. She only meant to hurt Justin’s reputation, not to kill him.
Now Mike, who was with Natalie that night, feels guilty and scared. He wants to go to the police and confess, but Natalie wants to cover it up. It was an accident. She just wanted to humiliate him. She had no idea he would die. Coming clean would strip her of the crown, not to mention send her to jail for the rest of her life. Determined to move forward and forget what happened, she sets out to frame someone the police actually suspect. She is more paranoid than remorseful, but soon the guilt and lies consume her. She slowly becomes mentally unhinged.
What I Liked: This Macbeth retelling is clever, sexy, and suspenseful. It’s a modern and steamy twist on the classic. The story is quick and difficult to put down once you’ve started. Natalie’s voice is mature and raw, with just the right amount of snark. It’s surprisingly a lot racier than LK’s other novels. There’s an abundance of sex, drugs, and scandal. And, of course, a lot of twisted betrayal. It’s pure deliciousness.
The Characters: One thing that was obviously missing from the book was character development. While the events unfold quickly, they can be hard to visualize because most of the characters are bland and faceless. There’s a lot of names, but other than the few major ones, it’s hard to remember who’s who and what purpose they serve. The only character showing any growth is Natalie, but we don’t see it until the very end. Throughout the book Natalie is deplorable. She is selfish, manipulative, and cruel–-basically a major bitch. She doesn’t seem to have any motives for what she does other than protecting herself and keeping her popularity intact. Her social status seems to be the only thing she cares about besides maintaining a spicy relationship with Mike. We catch glimpses of her past life along the way, but it’s not until the end that we truly understand who she is and how she became that way.
If you haven’t read Macbeth or it’s been a while since you have, I suggest not Googling it because Natalie Hargrove is a good story on its own. You’ll like it regardless of knowing it’s a retelling. If you know ahead of time, a few major plot points will be spoiled. Read up on Macbeth afterward and you’ll see the parallels instead of looking for them as you go.
Major References to Macbeth:
- Chapter names are quotes (Something Wicked This Way Comes, Out Damn Spotlight)
- Tracy the gossipmonger’s predictions – The witches’ prophecies
- Weird Sister’s Closet – The witches (the Weird Sisters)
- J.B.’s ghost – Macbeth (not Lady Macbeth) saw Banquo’s ghost
- Juicy Fruit fixation – Lady Macbeth’s OCD, obsessive hand washing
- Unable to get rid of pills – Cannot wash out bloodstains
- Manipulates to gain power – Plots murder to gain power
- Tragic ending
- Masquerade ball – Deception
These are just a few of the major parallels I noticed, so if you know of more, please let me know!
The Ending: (SPOILER ALERT)
So if you’ve read Macbeth, you know (SPOILER ALERT) Lady Macbeth dies. You can guess that Natalie is going to die. She doesn’t directly commit suicide; Mike pushes her in a rage and she falls. However, she relishes the fall and the relief her imminent death will bring. By the ending, you really understand more of Natalie. You even feel sorry for her. But the best part of the ending is discovering a secret about someone we’ve been wanting the learn the whole book. The ending is sad, but very fitting for the story. It’s definitely not a normal YA ending, but that’s why I loved it.
Was it Fate or Karma? You decide.
What story did you like better, Fallen, Teardrop, or The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove?Sound off in the comments below!