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Very Bad Things

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Katie never thought she'd be the girl with the popular boyfriend. She also never thought he would cheat on her - but the proof is in the photo that people at their boarding school can't stop talking about. Mark swears he doesn't remember anything. But Rose, the girl in the photo, is missing, and Mark is in big trouble. Because it looks like Rose isn't just gone… she's dead.

Maybe Mark was stupid, but that doesn't mean he's a killer.

Katie needs to find out what really happened, and her digging turns up more than she bargained for, not just about Mark but about someone she loves like a sister: Tessa, her best friend. At Whitney Prep, it's easy to keep secrets… especially the cold-blooded kind.

240 pages, Hardcover

First published October 14, 2014

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About the author

Susan McBride

29 books492 followers
Susan McBride is the USA Today Bestselling author of Blue Blood and five more award-winning Debutante Dropout Mysteries from HarperCollins, including The Good Girl's Guide To Murder, The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, Night Of The Living Deb, Too Pretty To Die, and Say Yes to the Death. Susan has a second bestselling series with HC/Avon, the River Road Mysteries, that include To Helen Back, Mad as Helen, and Not a Chance in Helen. A fourth installment, Come Helen High Water, will be released in 2017.

Walk Into Silence, a thriller featuring Texas police detective Jo Larsen, was named a Kindle First pick for November 2016 and was the #1 paid Kindle bestseller in the US and UK (and #3 in Australia!). Walk a Crooked Line, the second Jo Larsen book, will be released in July 2018 by Thomas & Mercer.

Susan's young adult thriller, Very Bad Things, was released by Random House in 2014. In addition to her mysteries, she has penned three well-received women's fiction titles from HarperCollins: The Truth About Love & Lightning, Little Black Dress, and The Cougar Club. Foreign editions of Susan's books have been published in France, Turkey, Croatia, Lithuania, and Bulgaria.

Susan has one nonfiction title: In the Pink: How I Met the Perfect (Younger) Man, Survived Breast Cancer, and Found True Happiness After 40, which tells her tale of becoming an "accidental Cougar" and marrying a younger man, her cancer diagnosis at age 42, and finding herself pregnant at 47.

She has authored several YA non-mystery novels for Delacorte about debutantes in Houston: The Debs (2008) and Love, Lies, And Texas Dips (2009). Gloves Off, the third book, will be out sometime in the future.

In January of 2012, Susan was named one of St. Louis's "Most Dynamic People of the Year" by the Ladue News. In April of 2012, she was given the "Survivor of the Year" Award by the St. Louis affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. As Susan likes to say, "Life is never boring."

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5 stars
99 (18%)
4 stars
145 (27%)
3 stars
179 (34%)
2 stars
72 (13%)
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30 (5%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 106 reviews
Profile Image for Susan.
Author 29 books492 followers
February 5, 2014
I loved writing this book so much! It was hard work but I'm so happy with how the story turned out. The characters surprised me at every turn (I know that sounds weird to say, but it's true). And every time I read it now, even though I know what happens, I feel my heart start to pound faster and I'm on the edge of my seat. I hope everyone who reads Very Bad Things feels the same way. Enjoy!
Profile Image for Jesten.
362 reviews
February 5, 2017
Wow. That just got really crazy at the end, and I feel like I'm going to need a Venn diagram to comprehend it, but I'm definitely glad I picked this book up off the shelf.
Profile Image for Rayne.
852 reviews288 followers
June 24, 2014
It took me a while to feel engaged with Very Bad Things, but once I did, I couldn't read this book fast enough. This is a short book in both pages and content, and the plot goes lightning fast, which makes for a compelling read.

The story is engaging and entertaining, but the thrills end early on in the story because the plot and the characters offhandedly give away the entire mystery and all the plot twists and that, in turn, inadvertently kind of ruined the climax and the big surprise. The succinct style of the book also gave the reader almost no time to wonder at the possibilities for the mystery and consider the suspects, not because it is fast paced, but because it spells out for the reader every possibility and remarks upon the one that will turn out to be the truth, stealing the surprise out of each and every single plot twist.

I was interested in the characters, though they were admittedly somewhat cliched and needed to be explored a bit more, but the strength of the characterizations relied a lot on the bonds between them, which felt realistic and, ultimately drove the impact of the plot. I can't say that any of the characters bothered me much, perhaps with the exception of Katie, the main character, who was a complete doormat and painfully oblivious at times. She made up for it somewhat towards the end and she did grow a backbone, but the climax is forced by her making stupid choice after stupid choice. The worst characterization in the novel belongs to the main antagonist as he was extremely generic and stereotyped, but, thankfully, that whole subplot is overshadowed by a larger mystery in the novel.

As far as high school mysteries go, this is probably one of the most decent ones I've read. It's not as exaggerated or cliched as some other YA mysteries and it delivers its fair share of thrills and even slightly creepy scenes. It's also surprisingly complex and has several subplots going on at the same time, with more than one mystery and bad guy, which made the novel even more compelling, but, as with the central mystery of the novel, they were not hard to anticipate and make out well before their resolution because of the extreme foreshadowing of some of the dialogues and inner thoughts of the characters. All in all, a very quick and complex mystery that, in spite of how predictable it is, doesn't fail to entertain.
Profile Image for Aviendha.
306 reviews18 followers
June 2, 2017
Kitap tam olarak az oyuncu sayısına sahip, çeşitli şaşırtmacalar ve eklemelerle, temposunu koruyan ancak mükemmel kurgu oluşturamamış bir gerilim filmi modunda. Elinize alıp sıkılmadan bitireceğiniz türden. Ayrıca okumayı düşünürseniz tanıtım yazısını okumayın, gereksiz bilgi fazlalığı var.
Profile Image for Magic Shop .
567 reviews
February 7, 2015
When I read the blurb for this book I thought it looked really interesting. So when I didn't when the giveaway and found it at the library, I was really excited. It was a pretty short book with a lot of twists and turns. I usually enjoy reading mysteries especially if it has a cute couple to go along with it. This book had some. Suspenseful moments and stuff happened that I didn't expect. Then there was things that I knew was going to happen by the clues. But overall, it had a pretty good plot, but there was times where the plot stretched out and wasn't really going anywhere. I also liked how there was chapters that were based on Mark, Katie, and Tessa. Then there was the characters. I liked Katie, she was a pretty good protagonist and really used her head to figure the truth out. She and Mark were pretty good together and I knew that they cared about each other. Mark was also pretty good. Even though he may be the most popular boy at school, he still really loved her. I knew towards the middle that he probably didn't do it. Tessa was another thing. I knew there was something off about her, but isn't really expect that ending. She was a pretty good friend, but she did things that she shouldn't have. I didn't exactly hate her, but she wasn't my favorite person. There were other characters, some good, and some really bad that I hated like Steve. The ending was pretty cute and I liked it. I also liked how towards ending it revealed all the secrets and everything else that was happening. So overall, a pretty good book and a nice, short easy read. Enjoy!!!!
Profile Image for Gretchen Oates.
568 reviews5 followers
February 24, 2015
Katie’s new boyfriend, Mark, is a dream-come-true; popular, handsome, and he seems to really “get” her. Too bad her best friend and roommate, Tessa, can’t stand him; his ex-girlfriend wants him back; and his hockey teammate is doing his best to cause trouble between them. Things get worse when a photo goes viral of Mark in a compromising position with another girl. Mark claims to be innocent, and ends up as the prime suspect when the girl’s dead body is found. This book is told in multiple perspectives from Katie, Mark, and Tessa’s points of view. McBride keeps the story moving along rapidly, and packs as much as she can in a very short book (225 pages). There is underage drinking, swearing, and references to sex, but are crucial to the storyline.
Profile Image for Kerri.
630 reviews18 followers
May 4, 2014
I received the ARC of this book at the TLA conference this year. I had it sitting on a counter when my students came in the following Monday. They were so excited about my new books, and this one was so intriguing that my most avid volunteer/reader/student begged me to borrow it before it got processed for the shelves. The next day she brought it back with a friend who also wanted to borrow it. It went on like this for about two weeks! Each friend had a friend who had a friend and so on. Finally, I got it back in my hands to read, and I really liked it! It's definitely an upper middle school to high school book because of the content. I could tell why my students liked it so much!
Profile Image for Claire Talbot.
822 reviews27 followers
April 10, 2017
A very quick, entertaining read. A solid choice for lovers of "Pretty Little Liars". Dead bodies and cheating (maybe?) boyfriends and prep school angst. Thrown in some mysterious events in the past, a few scholarship students trying to fit in, and you've got yourself an engrossing mystery!
Profile Image for Kelly Roberson.
125 reviews176 followers
January 24, 2018
Unfortunately I just could not enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. I found that the characters were not likable at all. The main character in particular was so obsessed with her boyfriend I almost couldn't handle it. I also felt like some pretty serious issues occurred on this book that were not handled currently at all. The ended was thrilling for sure, but even so I found myself just rushing to be finished with the book in general.
Profile Image for Marianna.
125 reviews29 followers
December 23, 2014
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Very bad book is more like it...

I'm sorry, but this one didn't work of me at all.
I picked up this book because I had seen it listed in a goodreads giveaway, and I remembered hat it had to do with murder and boarding/private schools. And it was also short! All of those things are things that I like!


With a title like 'Very bad things', I really hoped that this book would be quirky, or humorous, or intentionally over-the-top, or of the so-bad-it's-crazy-awesome variety.

I hoped for too much.
Because this was just awful.
I still finished it, because I'm a completionist, but it was PAINFUL. Around every corner there are dislikable, stereotypical, stupid characters. We also have a heroine who spells out every plot revelation, ridiculously sad pasts for everyone, and some horror scenes that were...lacking. I'm kind of a scardy cat when it comes to horror, but even I laughed when people's limbs started showing up. It was so silly, and not in a good way. There was also many uses of the word 'bad', as you'd expect. Which seemed like a pretty weak additive to describe murder and such.
I saw some of the things the author was going for, and the plot twists at the end were kind of interesting, but...the whole story started to stretch believability just enough for me to dislike it.
Definitely not going on my favorite books list.

Warning: I also want to note that this book has quite a lot of swearing in it. And roses.

Way too many roses.
Profile Image for Nicole.
157 reviews
July 8, 2018
I love cheesy, poorly written YA books (See Twilight); but this takes the cake on just plain bad writing. The only reason I finished this book is because I wanted to confirm I knew who the killer's identity.
Profile Image for Jolene Haley.
Author 10 books79 followers
July 17, 2016
For fans of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS and Gretchen McNeil's TEN, this YA thriller will thrill, delight, and leave you wanting more.

What I loved the most about this novel was the twisted web of lies and secrets that were the root of all problems--that intricately bound web was fun to dissect and figure out.

As I read, I sat there trying to figure out which narrator I could trust, which narrator was unreliable, and who was lying about what. I loved the multiple POVs in VERY BAD THINGS. It gave the novel a unique dynamic and really made me feel like Nancy Drew.

Let me tell you, I did NOT see the end coming. Not one bit. Which was quite refreshing. Actually, while I was reading, I could be found yelling things like, "Oh snap!" "Whaaaattt?" "Nooooooooo!!" and "Yesssssss."

I found Susan McBride's writing style easy to read and flowing. I think she did a great job writing this in the 3rd person. I felt like the dialogue was believable and the characters were all flawed and dealing with very real issues that teens deal with today: peer pressure, drinking, bullying, etc.

I don't want to get super spoilerish here either but I also appreciate that one of the people who is drugged here is a male. I feel like people always write about women getting drugged, but where is the awareness for men? I applaud Susan for doing something different here.

Overall, this is a very solid read and I strongly recommend it. For fans of mysteries, thrillers, and horror, VERY BAD THINGS will fulfill all of your reading needs and then some.

I give VERY BAD THINGS four point five (rounded up to five) out of five dead bodies.
Profile Image for Samantha.
4,985 reviews58 followers
May 24, 2014
Fans of Pretty Little Liars will devour this.

Katie is a senior at a prep school and is no stranger to drama and heartache. When a pic of her boyfriend and misterious lookalike starts making the rounds on campus she believes life can't get any worse; that's when a severed hand arrives in a box with her name scrawled across the top.

What follows is a twisted story of past connections and present bad behavior that results in the death of an innocent young waitress and the revelation of ghosts rising from the dead. Katie and her boyfriend Mark are at the center of it and both will have to battle with everything they've got to make it to graduation alive.

Some creepy stuff goes down, but it's not all that scary which makes this a teen book with appeal for middle grade readers who are thirsty for something a little more horrific than Goosebumps. The characterization is fairly cliche for the most part and pretty flat for the main characters.

The strength of this book lies in the twisted route the plot takes to its conclusion. There isn't just one bad guy, there's a handful and they are varying levels of "bad." It's not too hard to figure out who's really at fault once the story starts rolling, which could be both satisfying or disappointing depending on the reader.

Grades 5-8.
Profile Image for Sharon Chance.
Author 5 books42 followers
October 22, 2014

Delving into the world of Young Adult writing is not for the faint-hearted, but author Susan McBride makes it look so easy with her latest exciting novel, "Very Bad Things."

This novel, which is chalk-full of teenage romance, angst, and a bit of murder, is a spine-tingling adventure that even adults will get a thrill out of. The characters are well-developed and fascinating and the setting is properly spooky. Geared more toward the female readership, "Very Bad Things" would be a great book for daughters and moms to read together (lot of great conversation topics are scattered throughout the book!).

Susan McBride is one of my favorite "grown-up" writers and it's great to see her also succeeding at that YA market as well. Anything that Susan writes is well worth your time reading!
Profile Image for Paige.
1 review
August 17, 2014
Although I've only read a few chapters I think this book is amazing! It's a wonderful book that keeps you wanting more! I love the thrill and mystery of Very Bad Things! I especially love how the book focuses on more than one character! I'm a fan of Pretty Little Liars and this book is right up my alley! The detail and thought put into the book is incredible and I can't wait to read more of the book! I am just so excited about this book that I had to post a review right away, even though I haven't even finished it yet! I can tell that Very Bad Things is going to become one of my favorite books!
Profile Image for Courtney Whisenant.
223 reviews48 followers
October 29, 2014
Quick, fun read. I think what I liked most was the writing style. This is the first book I've read by this author but it won't be my last. I also thought the mystery was well done. There were two obvious suspects that seemed completely unrelated so it was fun to read as the pieces started falling into place. As an avid reader, sometimes I just want to pick up a great story that is quick, well organized, concise, and compelling and this was that kind of book for me. I really enjoyed it!
Profile Image for Serpil Çelebi.
316 reviews
May 4, 2016
Güzel bir polisiye okumuş bulunuyorum. Epeydir bu tarza elimi sürmemiştim, ilaç gibi geldi. Her şeyi dozunda, akıcı, heyecanlı, çevirisi ve basımı tertemiz güzel bir gençlik-polisiye karışımı sizi bekliyor arkadaşlar. 1 tane bile yazım hatası çarpmadı gözüme, belki kitabı okumuş değil de yutmuş olduğumdan görememiş de olabilirim. Yorum için bloğumu da ziyaret edebilirsiniz.

Profile Image for Mary.
538 reviews
November 20, 2014
_Very Bad Things_ Is a Very Good Book.

Action, suspense, friendship and love (true?), bullying by the “in crowd” . . . even ice hockey, _Very Bad Things_ has it all. The setting, a scary gothic private school with tunnels, enhances the tension. While designated YA, good books know no age. I loved it! (YA fiction by Susan McBride)
Profile Image for Michelle Witte.
Author 15 books77 followers
October 20, 2014
I'm a sucker for pretty covers. YES, MORBID CAN BE PRETTY.

(And I just added a new Morbid shelf, because why did I not already have that? I'm a sucker for creepy/dark/morbid stories. And now I need Dark and Creepy shelves too.)
Profile Image for Kristy.
1,380 reviews
November 27, 2014
Suspense, mystery, murder and a little romance. This book was very well written and a page turner. Quick read. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Imy.
12 reviews
Want to read
October 19, 2014
Although I haven't read it yet, the preview seems extremely good. I would love to read this book. Totally something in my genre interest.
Profile Image for Janelle.
1,895 reviews63 followers
May 16, 2017
You guessed it - this is another book I picked up when I was in need of a Pretty Little Liars fix! I keep finding myself drawn to YA high school murder mysteries to cleanse my palate in between contemporary YA and fantasy reading sprees, and this did the trick.

Very Bad Things is the story of Katie, a scholarship student at a prestigious boarding school who becomes embroiled in a deadly scandal. Katie’s boyfriend is photographed supposedly cheating on her with a girl who later winds up dead, though everything is not as it seems.

This book was a fun, ridiculous, eye-roll worthy read that requires you not just to suspend your disbelief, but lock it up and throw away the key entirely. If you want a read that conjures up Pretty Little Liars and Cry_Wolf feels, this aint half bad. It has ridiculous plot twists reminiscent of some of the weirder stuff Sara Shepard tried to pull with Pretty Little Liars, all to be taken with a grain of salt. And with the book clocking in at just under 230 pages, you’ll smash it out within a couple of hours so you can’t be too mad about how ridiculous it all was.

I can’t say that the character development over the novel was non-existent, because that would require us to have a sense of the characters to start off with. Susan McBride didn’t really flesh out Tessa and Katie’s characters whether it comes to physical description, personality, or backstory. I finished the book and couldn’t even tell you what Tessa’s hair colour was, nor could I pin down any one character trait about Katie in spite her of being the main character.

I could tell you that Tessa’s family had been killed in a fire and Katie’s father died when she was twelve, but as far as I’m aware that’s all that we really got from these characters. Similarly, Mark is most the generic of love interests, and basically all we know about him is that he’s really good at hockey and he’s the headmaster’s son. No physical description, no personality, and absolutely zero chemistry and attraction to our main lead.

Overall: I can’t offer too much criticism of this novel as it’s a) less than 230 pages, and b) totally spoilery. It’s a dumb and fun read that will keep you entertained for 2 hours, and will appeal to fans of Pretty Little Liars and Cry_Wolf. The plot twists are ludicrous and unrealistic and the characters are more bland than cardboard, but it’s fun watching the rollercoaster go out of control.
Profile Image for Thia Lee.
315 reviews2 followers
September 2, 2019
4.5 stars...

I didn't plan on finishing this one tonight, but it was just that good! Once again I just don't understand why this doesn't have a better star rating. I am so glad I didn't pay attention to that and took a chance on this one because honestly it has been one of the best YA thriller/mysterys that I have read so far. "Missing" by Armstrong would have been right up there too had it not been for a terrible let down ending. Anyway...

This gave what it promised---a mystery thriller full of suspense and "very bad things" (ha-stop rolling your eyes...). Um... that cover! Yes, I love a nice cover--achilles heal? I flew throw this one and not because it's only about 240 pages, but it just held my interest that much. I was hooked from the first page all the way to the end (and that doesn't happen often). Speaking of 240 pages, for so much to happen in so little pages---wow.

The only issue that I had with it was some of the crude language. Yea, I could have done without it, but I am glad that it wasn't as much as with other YA books I've read. Also, (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!) I didn't like the fact that it was Mark being drugged and forced into sexual acts was brushed over as being what it was --- rape. I suppose because he is a guy, the issue is played down and no one ever calls it that nor is anyone even concerned with that. However, when it happens to Joelle it is called rape and she needs to tell someone right away. I just think it's interesting how when it happens to a guy, no one wants to talk about it, but rather just pretend it never happened, but when it's a girl, she is encouraged to speak up. Yeah that rubbed me the wrong way. The story got so caught up in the dead girl that no one cared that Mark had been sexual violated.

I am surprised by this book. I kept waiting for it to go down hill and prove to me why the goodread rating was not even 3.5, but that never happened.

Content: "Sexual crime" is a big part of this book.
Language: There is some crude language throughout.
Definately more suitable for mature readers.
66 reviews32 followers
February 12, 2015
Very Bad Things is essentially The Phantom of the Opera set in a modern-day high school, with the gross-out factor raised by degrees.

Besides the glaring characterization issues and plot holes -- SPOILERS:
ex.1. For two weeks, this little campus is crawling with police and K9 units, and Peter, he of the distinct, overpowering smell of dank earth and mustiness, he of the midnight forays into the land of the living, is never discovered?
ex.2. Peter is badly enough burned that he cannot leave fingerprints, and inhaled enough smoke to destroy his windpipe, but as a scrawny 12-year-old was able to recover - without infection or other complications - on his own? And now lives as a scavenger in the underground labyrinth of tunnels beneath a private high school. Sure.
-- it's as if McBride attempted to give this story aspects that would appeal to higher-level readers, as well as to the lovers of the Clique series and Pretty Little Liars who would naturally be drawn to this kind of thing.
1. In the beginning of the story we find Katie, the protagonist, working on memorizing a Dickinson, an assignment for an unspecified literature class. She is at the library (nearly alone among her fellow students, we are led to believe, in taking advantage of that resource) in the dark hours of the night.
2. After the incident with The Box, Katie's first waking thought is one of dismay as she realizes how late she is to her Nineteenth Century American Poets class.
3. There is another Dickinson printed two thirds of the way through, the words seeming to come to Katie amidst her turmoil in perfect application to her traumatic situation. A pithy, three sentence paragraph follows, posing as an explication of the poem.
Katie is painted (on these occasions) as logical, studious, on the fast track to somewhere.
Then we see her with her boyfriend Mark.
Mark. The darling of the school. The star hockey player at a prep school where hockey matters. The son of the headmaster, because this school has a headmaster, and not a principal. The not-too-good boy, because he throws parties when Daddy is away, but not too bad, either, because he broke up with his last girlfriend after she cheated on him, and not the other way around. The high school senior who, from what is presumably a smartphone (since a. Katie most definitely has an iPhone [which, by the way, is encased in a pink hello kitty cover. I am all about being your own person, you-do-you, enjoying your hobbies and interests unashamedly, but really? hello kitty. #iDie.] and b. a phone mentioned later, described as "a crappy flip phone" [pg. 143], is most definitely not the kind of phone he would ever be caught dead carrying), texts in AIM lingo c. 2002 romantic sentiments such as "ily k8e." and "can i c u 2nite?"
Hello. This is 2015. The Twilight movie is mentioned, ergo these kids operate in the time of auto-correct and phones with full keyboards. World-build accordingly.

Katie with Mark can be summed up in the following, found on page 10:
"Mark was special. He was the guy all the girls drooled over and all the guys wanted to be....[Mark and Katie] actually had a lot in common."
There are mentions throughout the text of how Katie understands Mark, and how safe he makes her feel (when she's not considering the fact that he might be a cheating murderer), and other things that are all good - wholesome, sweet indicators of a healthy, budding relationship. That first sentence, though, is our introduction to the couple, and there are other flaccid remarks like it peppering the remainder of the story; their harm outweighs the potential good the other comments could have done. Overall, we are left feeling like this is another empty, cutesey but ill-fated, senior-scramble coupling, and we can feel some sympathy for the jilted best friend Tessa.

But then, Tessa is her own shit-storm of unhinged-ness, and by the end of the book she is so far off her nut as to be untouchable, and readers will probably be glad for the neat, convenient dispatch of that love-lorn character to the nearest juvie center (one town over, in case you wondered).
Also, is Tessa in love with Katie? Or does she just love her like a sister? Or a puppy. Or her child. Or something else towards which girls exhibit hyper-protective, hyper-competitive, vomit-inducing affection? Frankly, Tessa's ...feelings toward Katie made me horribly uncomfortable not because of what they were, but because they were not defined, not fully disclosed, and I didn't know how to read them. Intensity like that doesn't come out of the blue.
Also, why on earth does Tessa despise Mark so much? If she is in love with Katie, of course, case closed. Since that is not the case (?), her complete loathing of a soul she hardly knows becomes yet another line in the litany of weird that describes this chickie.

Teenagers undeniably have a rough time of it. They have a lot to figure out and not a whole lot of time to do so, and, depending on their circumstances, not necessarily a whole lot of support from outside parties.
Tessa's situation is more challenging than many, Katie's is not a lot better, and Mark - well, the poor rich kid of the headmaster has a picture-perfect life, so we'll cut him no slack, which is in and of itself an obstacle. Theoretically, I should want to feel for all of them - to root for all of them - but you don't get to know them well enough, and mostly, I just wanted to get through this weird story and figure out who the demented psycho was, and never ever pick up this book again.

This story perverts sibling love, best-friend relationships, and romantic relationships, turning them all into twisted obsessions or foundation-less fawning; it is neither good literature nor a worthwhile story. There was a good concept in here, at one point (Phantom is a blockbuster, time-transcending, mega-show for a reason), but it over-shot and under-achieved and left me feeling icky and clammy, like one of poor, emotionally-abused, mentally-deficient, criminally insane Peter's sickly sweet roses.

Peter, by the way, deserves way better treatment than he got from his author.

There are plenty of other young adult romantic/suspense/psycho-thriller/mystery stories out there, and I advocate trying a lot of them before cracking open this one.
Very Bad Things was, indeed, a very bad thing.

p.s. Speaking of the title, there was a point, in the beginning, when I thought the author was going to employ some cool device in repeating the phrase "very bad things" to signify.. an event? a twist? a theme? something, but that didn't pan out, and she uses the phrase only twice in the entire novel, to signify: nothing.
Profile Image for Aroog.
421 reviews9 followers
January 4, 2015

Writing Style

Oh, YA! You are such a vast genre that sometimes I forget that not all books within you are written in glorious prose or verse. I'm in a slump lately, to be honest. Every single book I've read since The Tragic Age has fallen flat, because the prose simply doesn't compare. The book is written at a nice pace, no glaring factual errors exist, etc. but I'm just not getting that amazing voice from the characters or narrator.



The beginning of VBT is rather slow, but I really do love a good murder mystery, and once the exposition wrapped itself up, the book got a lot more interesting. McBride does a good job of pacing her story, and plot twists come up at the perfect moment, leaving me with the visual version of grabby-hands whenever I had to leave the story.



Mark: I was really hoping for a "more than meets the eye" with you. It was tragic that you were nothing more than a run of the mill nice (and rich!) guy waiting for your nice (and rich!) name to be cleared. When it all boils down, you were nothing more than a trope, and even your mommy issues didn't add depth.
Katie: For someone who dominates most of the story, you don't really have a voice. To be honest, I lost respect for you and thus shut you out when you were going over your plans to follow Mark to his university of choice and go to community college if necessary. Ladies, can I be real? It doesn't matter how great of a man he is, he is not worth jeopardizing your education over. No ifs, ands, or buts. (Sidenote: do the kids at Whitney go to class? I can't recall a single scene where the girls are in class and learning, aside from the AP Bio field trip to the freaking morgue, which is beyond unlikely irl. Girl, my school district has to get on their knees and beg for us to go to an art museum!)
Tessa: Tessa's voice was easily the most prominent in this book, and she is all kinds of fcked up, which is refreshing, after two bland characters narrating the entire book. However, how did McBride manage to narrate as Tessa without spilling anything for the entire book? It seems unnatural for a character to clam up about their ever-present burden, yet spew the rest of their stream of consciousness, just sayin'. Also, was Tessa's hatred for Mark ever explained? I chalk it up to Tessa possibly being queer for Katie, leading to extreme jealousy, but that would add more tragic!mogai characters, and I can't deal with that (see: The Unforgivables).
Minor characters: Steve Getty is a creep and I hate him, which is the intention of the author. It's a shame he got away with multiple counts of sexual assault/date rape, but I'll discuss that in the Unforgivables. Oh, Charlie! The lone queer character, who comes out in a tragic manner and is nothing more than the standard queer character trope! A moment of silence for all that you could have been. See the Unforgivables for more on this. Joelle is really cool. I enjoy her growth as a character through the course of the story, and she is the only character that grows in a positive way.

*Note: this is only for Joelle and Tessa, who were really well-written.


Or honestly, the lack thereof. Did we learn anything about the town surrounding Whitney? Did we learn anything about the campus itself? A novel doesn't need fantastical elements for worldbuilding to occur. Even if this story is the most unmagical thing in the world, there still needs to be a "map" of sorts woven through the story. Weave in the character's favorite hang-out, where the police station, library, and church are at, etc. The phrase "leave something to the imagination" ≠ "leave the reader in the dark without a flashlight."
As for the reasonability aspect, many pieces of this story were far-fetched. Police search every possible area in which the crime could have occurred, and in a murder situation, the idea that they would confine the search to Whitney campus only is ridiculous. Either not enough research was done here, or the author was too lazy to flesh out the world and expand the search.


The Unforgivables

Perpetuating Rape Culture
Look, Joelle either got raped or assaulted, her boyfriend dumped her before hearing her out, and then she proceeds to keep quiet about it. When prodded to share her story, she's reluctant, but she finally comes around. All is looking well, and then bam! Steve Getty's picked up by his ambassador father and escapes the possibility of charges. What is this scenario supposed to do? There are enough rapists getting away with their crimes in real life! There is no need to add to the overall despair/uselessness rape victims feel. When writing topics as sensitive as these, it is necessary to show support for the group you're writing about. Just writing out their tragic story isn't enough. Give them justice within your story. That shows support, because you are taking a side. By letting Getty get away, no sides (or perhaps the wrong side) are being taken.
Honestly, is there any rest for queer characters in YA? Maybe it all comes from the hatred we face irl, but please! I need some escapism from daily discrimination! Reading about unhappy mogai kids breaks my heart! Let us LIVE! Also, fck outta here with the "character came out in a suicide note" trope. Do you have any idea how destructive that is? Media plays a huge role in our lives, and mogai kids already have enough people sending them subliminal/blatant "kill yourself" messages, okay? Again, let us LIVE! Give us a healthy relationship! A loving family! We aren't turning towards fiction for another dose of brutal reality, people!
Other than the inclusion of a token queer character that gets no rest, this book is the most mayo thing I've ever seen! Where are the POC? Are they mythical? Or does Whitney Prep just not recruit POC?
Does it really kill authors to flesh out a minor character and then add in a tiny detail like "they're not white/they're mogai"? Is it really that hard?



∙Inclusion alone, especially via tokenism, ≠ support of a minority group.

∙Bullshit does not a good story make--do your research!

∙Positive growth and messages in YA ≠ being a sappy, faux-deep book.

2 reviews
April 30, 2020
Katie’s new boyfriend Mark is the jock of their boarding school, the popular guy that the other girls want. She never expected to be with someone like him and never expected him to cheat on her. When a photo gets leaked of a guy and a missing girl, Mark turns out to be in big trouble and the supposed suspect for why she is missing. He promises to Katie that he doesn’t remember the girl in the photo or the night at all. Katie is desperate to find the bottom of this mystery, on her journey to find out what happened, she unravels secrets about her best friend. She begins to put the pieces together and is shocked by the outcome.

In terms of the characters, I did not like Katie’s best friend, Tessa. Tessa never really seemed like a good friend to Katie and she did not support her friend’s relationship with Mark. She kept so many secrets of her supposed best friend, leaving Katie feeling alone with many questions. My favorite part of the novel was how each chapter is told with a different character’s perspective and it always switches. That little detail of the book, I thought, was essential. The chapters would all connect because it showed what everyone was thinking and their own opinions and also indirectly answered questions of previous chapters.

After reading “Very Bad Things” by Susan McBride, I thought this book was an okay teenage mystery. The author sort of wrote the book with plain writing but since it was a mystery, so there were many questions being asked. But there were many twists and turns that were unexpected in the plot and it was interesting reading how everything fell into place.

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