"The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove" is Lauren Kate's debut novel (prior to Fallen by about... a month, if Goodreads is anything to go by). I took it out of the library because... well, honestly, I don't know why I took it out.Sorry. I lie. I'm in my exam period and I needed something to counterbalance all the academic texts I was reading.Given how much I liked her other books, you might imagine what expectations I had when I went into this one. Well, dear readers, my reaction at the beginning, the middle, the end and the aftermath of this novel is, and always will be: "THIS WAS WRITTEN BY THE SAME WOMAN WHO WROTE FALLEN? THIS?"Oh, my God! There is sex! There are drugs! There are characters I actually cared about! How is this even possible?I read somewhere that this was loosely based on Macbeth, but since I don't remember enough of the play (sorry, Shakespeare wasn't a big priority in my school's curriculum), I can only judge the novel by its own merits.And, again, I cannot believe Lauren Kate wrote this. Have I mentioned this already? I think I have, but I'll say it again, for good measure, I cannot believe it!Maybe it's crazy, but I actually liked Natalie. She was just interesting. And, since the novel is told from her point of view, we do learn a lot about her, her story, and why she became the person she is now. I actually found her motivation to be pretty believable - becoming the prom queen is not such an unbelievable goal if you started out where she did, or went through the things she suffered through. Natalie is mean, Natalie is ruthless and Natalie is not repentant... until a prank she plays on a boy ends in tragedy. From there on, Natalie unravels, and we get a first row view of the carnage. Is this what they call schadenfreude? Maybe. Possibly. I dunno. But as I read, I started to like Natalie. Really, I almost wished things would end well for her. The portrayal of her relationship with Mike was also realistic. If you read Fallen, you'd know how lame and tame the romance is there, and until I read this, I wasn't sure that Kate could write something so raw and realistic as Natalie and Mike's passion. They're reckless, they're wild, they live like there is no tomorrow, but ultimately, they don't know each other, and ultimately, when faced with a stumbling block, they fall apart. It's a very powerful portrayal."The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove" is a pretty short book, barely breaching 250 pages. But it manages to pack more punch than all three Fallen books combined, I'll tell you that. Really, I cannot understand how the same author can write those books. It just boggles the mind. And yes, I do know that I've said this a billion times already, but there is a point to be made here.Lauren Kate can write. Maybe her style can use some work, but she can write compelling characters when she wants to. I refuse to believe that she made Natalie so well-rounded because she's a mean girl or an anti-hero. It's incredibly frustrating to know she can write good books, but for some improbably reason holds back on us.At this point you're probably wondering if I rated this book so low simply because I was frustrated. I did not. For all of the good parts of Natalie's characterization, the rest of the cast is not nearly as well developed. Granted, it's a short novel, so there wasn't much room for that, but still, I think Mike could have used some more fleshing out.Another thing I found particularly unsatisfactory was the ending. Without giving away too much, it just ruins the feel you get from the rest of the book. It's as if Kate tried to cram character development in a thousand words and it just comes off as convoluted. So J.B. had a bunch of pictures of Natalie. What? Is that supposed to mean he loved her? More like he had a very unhealthy obsession with her. Huh.... not so unlike Fallen, then. Also, I notice that Lauren Kate has this running theme about fate in her novels. This is more of a pet peeve than an actual complaint, but it does seem too convenient to blame something out-of-this world for all the shit that goes down in our lives. Don't be modest, Natalie. You did all this by yourself. The only thing fate did in your case was to contribute to a very nasty coincidence that led to a very nasty end.In spite of what I just said, I think you should check out this book. No, really. It is worth reading, and I think you might find it a very interesting contrast to Fallen.