Book Review – Very Bad Things by Ilsa Madden-Mills

by Maryse on September 12, 2013 · 9 comments

in My Book Reviews

Very Bad Things (Briarcrest Academy 1)
Okay, so I had to take a breather for a day or so from this book before I reviewed it. To get my bearings and all that. ‘Cause there were a few parts that really, well… were over-the-top for me, and yet, I also liked a lot of it, too. Mostly, the second half. Once I hit the middle mark, I was reading more intently. I was into it.

Good overall story and writing style and just enough intensity, and personal detail in the romance angle to keep me reading. But for me, there were few distracting hitches (actually, one main one) that, in the grand scheme of the story, growth and development, really didn’t have to go there. ‘Cause, in the end, this didn’t feel like that kind of book.

However, it was making waves amongst the early readers, and we were getting quite an earful on my Facebook page, and when it comes to Leo… I was right there with you guys!

Sandy: Very Bad Things is worth your attention…

Toski: 5 star awesomeness. It’s in my favs of 2013. Yay!!!!! Don’t you love Nora?

Jessica: I read it and it blew me away. It’s full of every emotion you could think of! Def a good read for sure!

Lauren: Very bad things is a very angsty 5 star read for me! I could NOT put it down I felt every single feeling! Whoa I’m still feeling things from it!

Our fellow readers appeared to be loving it and so many of us were anxious to see what all of the fuss was about. From what we were hearing, this “new adult” read was right up our alley, and when I read, in the synopsis, that… “he didn’t want her…” oh yes. That got my attention. ‘Cause you see, that means we’d have to work for it. And anything I get, through hard emotional work, is even better in the end, right?

And I did end up working for it a bit, and I enjoyed that angle… but! It also has that crazy-emotional-dark angle from her past that’s supposed to make you gasp, feel her pain, and all that.

She dressed me up and paraded me around like a doll.

But no matter what she did, I was still ugly on the inside.

And, while I get “where” the author wanted to go with it (that incredible healing), I think we could have gotten the same thing just by using the emotionally-distant mother angle, and leaving out the rest. Had all of the outrageous, infuriating “rest” been left out, it would have had a more realistic, maybe even “relatable” feel, and I think the story still would have evolved the way it did. The way it needed to.

Sue:  Can’t wait to read your review of Very Bad Things by Ilsa Madden-Mills – Hope you read it next! I LOVED Nora and so want to share her!

Maryse: I’m almost done – and enjoying it! I find her backstory is a bit… too much for me (there’s not just one facet of crazy with that angle… it’s just so crazy and reaches deep so I’m struggling with that part) , but am enjoying the sweetness, and the friend/love angle… am in the 60-70% of it. ‘

Kandace: Exactly, the friendship of both brothers is what I enjoyed the most. The growth and friendship was the best part of book. She wanted to self destruct but those boys…ahhhh! We all need a Tate boy in our life.

Yes, yes… I know in real life, this kind of evil happens, but in this? There were just too much of it. Too many crazy-angles (and outrageous truths) from “that part” of the story, that… all of it together? Too outrageous. Maybe not impossible, but definitely implausible.

Now, I could see “evil part A” and maybe even “evil part B”, but A & B with evil part C? And what about adding that, with “evil part D”? And it just went on and on. There were so many “evil parts” to this one reveal and the hits just kept coming, and I just couldn’t connect. There was something about how this whole part was handled, how it was carried out, that just rubbed me the wrong way. Instead of feeling her pain, I was mostly focused on, and irritated by, the insanity of it.

If you’re interested in my “reasoning” for this part, I may add it to the spoiler-forum. I just can’t post it in detail here, ’cause I’m anti-spoiler for reviews and comments, but then again, I can’t “gloss” over this part. I think I may need to explain my “hitches” to feel better about it.

But in a nutshell, to me, it had too much “shock-value”, too much outrageousness, for this potentially meaningful love story. But whatever. I’m cutting that part out of my mind, and I may just leave it in the the spoiler forum. ;)

‘Cause for the most part? I liked it.

So what’s it about?

Nora is from an affluent family, but has pretty much been left to fend for herself. On the outside, they appear to be the perfect successful, wealthy family, but privately, they’re a mess. Her mom is cold and distant. Demanding (which I was okay with, ’cause some perfectionists might not realize where to draw the line with their kids). But it’s when I realized she was verbally and mentally abusive is when my “aha” moment kicked in (in regards to Nora’s angry inside voice).

Nora is 18 and acting out. Always the perfect good girl, with perfect grades and the perfect appearance with the perfect “Princeton” opportunity, but now? She’s ready to be bad! And she’s finally so cold inside that she doesn’t care about the repercussions. She makes a “bad girl” list, including drinking, sex, drugs and all the rest that would tarnish her perfect girl reputation and really cause her mother to freak out. Maybe pay attention?

Prompted by thoughts of Mother, the filth that gnawed at me flared deep n my gut. I needed balm for my soul. I needed to lash out again at something or someone. Ws it wrong? Yes, definitely. Would it make me feel better? I didn’t know, but I was willing to do anything to feel better, stay sane.

Sounds deep and angry (the writing definitely has that quality) and yet… often, it was cute (although not so cute when she was being obnoxious). I eye-rolled some, during the first half (Nora is quite “innocent”, and the book and some of the characters have that high-school feel), but I also flinched. ’Cause in all of her apparent innocence, she has a dirty secret that causes her so much guilt and anguish, and that forced her to grow up quick. I realized this wouldn’t only be about her mother.

Finally, some of the pain and darkness that had been wrapped around my soul fell away.

I smiled for real this time without even trying.

It felt good to be bad.

In her first attempts at being bad, she gets the attention of her peers when she blurts out an obnoxious “welcome” (rolleyes).  And then, gets falling down drunk and spray-paints the wrong (right?) guy’s car. With hearts. And flowers. hehe! Even in her “bad”, she’s cute. But she’s young. *shrug*

Leo recognizes her from earlier that day (she’s in his younger brother’s classes), and they take her in to clean her up.

… I undid the last button and shrugged out of my shirt, relieved I’d worn the black lace bra. “You like?”

He yanked a towel from the shelf near the door and tossed it in my face. “Cover up, Nora. I don’t f%ck spoiled, rich girls.”

And therein starts the friendship. And cute girl-crush. And Leo’s firm resistance of it.

What was I doing? Why was I trying to seduce this guy? He didn’t want me.

No one did.

His eyes burned like blue flames as he stared at me.

“What kind of girl strips for a guy she just met?”

A girl with no self-respect, I thought.

And Sebastian’s flirting… And eventual “fun” time for me!

Maryse: That “Clarity” part was *whooooooo* intense! Was that the 69% mark, Toski? Lemme go look, cause that was awesome! Heh! Yep.  wow… I hadn’t even read your message yet, Toski and that was the part that got me, too. LOL!

Toski: HAHAHA!!!  Great minds think alike!!! INTENSE. Yes, that’s the word!

Stephanie: I am at 58% of Very Bad Things. Loving the dynamic between the Tate men and Nora!

Maryse: Verrrrry fun! That was some super-serious intensity (Leo) just like I love it.

Kandace: Leo was AWESOME but I kind of had a soft spot for Sebastian. He was the wisest of them all.

Kathy: Kandace, I agree! Leo’s back and forth drove me nuts. Sebastion was definitely my favorite brother!

Okay, so yes…. Leo drove us crazy too, (hot & cold, commitment issues and all that – he’s got his reasons neutral), but it wasn’t so bad that I lost interest in him. He kept me chasing him, and I enjoyed the fact that she kept trying, too. And, because of the amount of feeling and detail that was put into those scenes, (like Leo’s growlie intensity, his sweet moments and his jealous moments), and a few very clever a-ha! moments, I’m good with it.

What the hell? Did both of the Tate boys need meds for their mercurial moods?

Sure, it had that predictable quality and the connections were a bit too fast for me, considering these people had just met (I wondered what everyone saw in her so quickly, ’cause at first, she was a brat!) But eventually things slowed down and I started connecting with the friendships and romance that developed. Plus, Leo gave me butterflies. ;)  A few of the other guys gave me butterflies, too, but Leo was just my type. Where it goes, romantically? Well… that’s for you to find out.

It was a feel-good, “friends-become-family” story, with that extra indulgent touch of “resistant” love that couldn’t help but boil over, every chance it got. But, this love story had a few contenders in the ring that kept me guessing. Maybe a surprise “someone else” might have been the right fit for Nora? Or maybe not. ;)

This proved that an opulent lifestyle and well-to-do reputation, the “perfect” image and the “perfect” future didn’t have anything on reality. ‘Cause making it on your own, being yourself, being happy and carefree with your own friends, deciding on your own future… is what life is all about.

4 stars for the friendship/love story and 3 stars (or less) for the over-the-top situation that continues to haunt her in her present (and threatens to take away her future). In theory, it sounds good, but I just couldn’t connect to that. I couldn’t believe it. I feel had it been cut out or greatly reduced, I might have really connected to this one.

3.5 stars


Sign up for my weekly newsletter

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara September 12, 2013 at 1:35 PM

Loved the review. You talk so deeply!
It sounds like everyone is reading this one, I will move it TBR list! Thanks :)

Amy September 12, 2013 at 2:11 PM

Ooooh, I was wondering about this one. I bought it but held off on reading it because I wanted to find out if there was a mean cliffhanger. Looks like I’m “safe” with this one in that respect. ;)

Maryse September 12, 2013 at 4:22 PM

Thank you Sara! LOL!

Yep, Amy! No cliffhangers, but I believe it will be a series featuring other characters in the story. :)

Sandy September 12, 2013 at 5:13 PM

I loved this book and look forward to reading more from Ilsa Madden-Mills. The relationship between the brothers is wonderful. Nora to me is a gossip girl type who has this dirty little secret. I guess she think what the hell she may as well go all the way and really be as worthless as she feels. Yet something inside her fights against those feelings. Leo doesn’t want to want her but he does. Her BFF is cute and funny! Sebastian is an old soul. Her Dad is clueless. Her Mom is an evil b*tch! Her brother well I won’t waste words on him. Having known “people” like them – the evil aspect doesn’t seem unrealistic to me. Besides being nurtured, if that’s the right word, in that type of environment fosters the thinking that this thing I’m doing isn’t terrible because everyone is co-signing my behavior. For me VBT was a 4.5 Star read. I always enjoy your reviews Maryse!

Lisa September 12, 2013 at 8:13 PM

OMG this book rocked my freaking socks off! The writing, the phenom characters, the love storm that was brewing, the chaos, and just overall the amazing story as a whole. I was instantaneously hooked. Those Tate men own my heart! Thanks for sharing your review with us Maryse, it was great!!

Lina September 12, 2013 at 10:35 PM

Very Bad Things hit home. Reading Nora’s thoughts and feelings of rejection only to have her keep fighting for Leo’s heart…I wanted to know WHAT went so wrong? And from the start H-ELLO! FY! I was sucked in. I broke down. I hid the pain perfectly. And I fell in love with a man. My favorite scene…30% “Go back to your d@%+ table. No f&cking today, Nora” Best.Tiramisu.I.Ever.Had. I absolutely love this chapter! Sassy, in charge Nora. The nitty, gritty “evils” I get it. For once, I was relieved to have a young female lead face the crap and come out the heroine. The evils in Nora’s “sheltered” life, way too common and way too often wrapped up pretty. I don’t know, maybe I just get real emotional when reading? Please don’t tell my husband! Bravo to Ilsa Madden-Mills on this debut and when is Briarcrest Academy #2 coming out? I want more Sebastian!

Lauren September 13, 2013 at 12:53 AM

Ohh maryse I know exactly what you mean and I have to agree with you, its a 5 star from me because when a book grabs me like this one did i cant give it any less.There were parts that were just too much buuuuut at the same time I was feeling every single emotion and I love that in a book!.i was so cranky sometimes i had smoke coming out of my ears and other times I was swooning!! Absolutely swooning to the max! I love a book that gives me the “funny feeling” like a sudden whoosh of emotion that makes my stomach do flip flops!
Great review I’ve been waiting to hear your opinion!!

Jill September 13, 2013 at 9:27 AM

I agree. My biggest complaint was the ending. I just felt it was very rushed and it took me away from the story. So much build up and angst and then it was over. So I also gave it a 3.5.

Ilsa October 16, 2013 at 9:55 PM

Thank you again for your review, Maryse! I really appreciate your time and thoughtfulness while reading VBT. Your way of putting things in a review is why I feel in love with your website years ago. I like constructive criticism…defintely food for thought…

Ilsa Madden-Mills

Leave a Comment


Notify me of followup comments to this post via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Previous post:

Next post: