Sunday, June 15, 2014

Very Bad Things (Briarcrest Academy #1) by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Title:  Very Bad Things
Series: Briarcrest Academy #1
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills
Genre: Young Adult/Romance/Dark

Maturity Rating: 17+
Overall Rating:

My Quickie Synopsis: Nora Blakely seems like she has the best of everything; she's talented, smart, beautiful and comes from a well-to-do family. But Nora is harboring excruciatingly dark secrets, and she's tired of having to put on a face of perfection. She's ready to give in to her darker side.

Enjoyment Factor:
This book had me seriously scratching my head over what constitutes being a new adult book. In my head, I always considered new adult as being anything that happens post high school up until the late twenties, early thirties range of adulthood. But this story, which was promoted as new adult fiction, focuses entirely on a girl who is still in high school. Sure, she's nineteen, but she's still in high school. There's still locker-side talk going on. This book read like a young adult fiction that desperately wanted to be in the big leagues of adult fiction but settled for calling itself new adult. I'm not buying it.
A cotton candy book playing with trauma triggers?
Mislabeled genres aside, this book just came across as weak. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't fantastic either. The main characters felt so extraordinarily cookie cutter and I just didn't connect with them the way I would have wanted to. I was actually more invested in what happened to the supporting characters; perhaps the author was more invested in them as well since she goes on to tell their stories in subsequent books.
My main problem with Very Bad Things is that it puts a nice veil on a very serious topic. Everything is handled so incredibly casually and with such shallow convictions that the story lost quite a bit of its much needed poignancy. Everyone deals with trauma in their own way, but I feel like Very Bad Things glamorizes the after-effects. Instead of actually dealing head on with what Nora was going through, everything seemed more like a long-coming rebellious phase that was due to an overbearing, evil mother.To make matters worse, there definitely was some rose-colored shading going on as well. I could understand if the author didn't want to focus much on Nora's traumatic past, but the fact of the matter is that she made it a huge plot point that was only brought up when it was convenient. If it weren't for this indelicate handling, I'd probably rate the book slightly higher. As it stands though, I do realize that there's an audience out there that would eat this up without batting an eye, so it gets a solid two stars from me!

Technical Rating:

Character Building:
I touched on this a bit in my initial response, but to reiterate, the main characters needed quite a bit of work. Both Nora and Leo are extraordinarily flat in their character builds; any complexities that they had felt like mere ornaments to their personalities instead of having actual intrinsic value. The supporting cast of characters were a bit more grounded, which was refreshing, but disappointing at the same time. If only the main characters had been developed as much!

Plot Strength:
I'm not sure if you'll recall when I explained what a cotton candy book is, but I'll redefine that here. A cotton candy book is one that looks amazing, sounds like it's interesting, but when you read it, you realize that even though it might fulfill a base desire, there isn't actually much there to it. Very Bad Things is one such book. There's no actual edge to this book, and the plot elements are as weak as the character builds of the main characters. The climax? Anticlimactic. The resolution? Loose at best. However, the elements are there so I gave it half a star.

The supporting characters save Very Bad Things from getting a big fat zero in this category. The main characters are borderline unbelievable in their actions. A lot of pieces don't really add up when it comes to the pair, and I can't even chalk it up to fairy tale syndrome.

I can't particularly recall anything that made me cringe or stumble, so full marks here.

The only time that I took real issue with the pacing was towards the end. Everything was speedily wrapped up for the HEA (Happily Ever After). I did skim a few parts, but to my recollection it had nothing to do with a slow paced story, I just was getting fed up with the main characters! So an okay pace overall, I give it a half star.

My Icing on Top:
In all fairness I read this from the anthology Devour, which I mentioned in a previous review. Unfortunately, the anthology is no longer available for purchase (it was a limited time kind of deal) so you'll have to settle for buying this lovely tale on its own. For the reasons stated above, this book was not my cup of tea. However, I do know that this will come as a happy diversion book for many readers out there. If you (like me) take issue with traumas taken lightly, don't read this book. But, if you're just looking for your next fluff piece that has decent insta-love, give Very Bad Things a shot.

Check out my informal review on Goodreads!

As always, happy reading!


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