The synopsis for The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate (2009):
A steamy Southern beauty makes one fatal mistake.
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.
I'd argue that protecting the truth about her time spent on the "wrong side of the tracks" and getting revenge for a past (major) wrong serve more as the motivation for what Natalie does to Justin. And Mike just seems to be along for the ride, doing whatever makes his girlfriend--and his oppressive parents--happy.
I found the first part of the book really unnerving. Natalie and everyone around her are portrayed as completely shallow--the hierarchy at school, always partying, looks as being the all-important, etc. (The sophomore girls, supposedly always sexually available to the senior boys, are called Bambies--GROSS!) And the parents don't do any better--equally shallow and consumed with thoughts of making money and judging others solely on the basis of material wealth. The best friend from Natalie's former life is addicted to drugs and men, and I can easily see her--poor, no job or minimum-wage job, and three little kids within five years of the end of the book.
All-around depressing and pointless.
The book after Justin's death, which was an accident, becomes riveting. That's when the true Natalie and Mike surface, and that's what makes this book worth reading. I just wish some parent or another had come through and been able to help when attempting to hide their involvement with Justin's death leaves only the true core of Natalie and Mike behind.
You can learn more about the book at the author site here.
To see my list of books read for the 2010 YA Reading Challenge, click here.
My overall personal rating of The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove is a B.