Book Review: Very Bad Things by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Very Bad Things by Ilsa Madden-MillsTitle: Very Bad Things
Series: Briarcrest Academy, Book 1
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills
Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
Sensuality Rating: Steamy
Source: review copy provided via NetGalley
Published: September 9, 2013 by Little Dove Publishing

Born into a life of privilege and secrets, Nora Blakely has everything any nineteen-year-old girl could desire. She’s an accomplished pianist, a Texas beauty queen, and on her way to Princeton after high school. She’s perfect...

Leaving behind her million-dollar mansion and Jimmy Choos, she becomes a girl hell-bent on pushing the limits with alcohol, drugs, and meaningless sex.

Then she meets her soulmate. But he doesn’t want her.

When it comes to girls, twenty-five-year-old Leo Tate has one rule: never fall in love. His gym and his brother are all he cares about... until he meets Nora. He resists the pull of their attraction, hung up on their six year age difference.

As they struggle to stay away from each other, secrets will be revealed, tempers will flare, and hearts will be broken.

Welcome to Briarcrest Academy... where sometimes, the best things in life are Very Bad Things.

Reviewed By: Laura

Why I Read This Book: This book popped up on radar because there is so much potential in books about high schoolers breaking away from their parents. I was intrigued by what would make such a privileged individual rebel so forcefully against the life she was raised in. I understand the “gilded cage” complex, but this just sounded like something more substantial.

Her main love interest also piqued my interest. While I’ve read about guys resisting gals due to age or social status differences, I don’t think I’ve read about a guy put off, not just by age, but also by the fear of loving someone. Yes, a tragic past will usually make people skeptical of opening themselves to being hurt again, but I really wanted to know why he would willingly avoid any kind of emotional attachment.

What I Liked: There was a wide and varied cast of characters who were well-established and useful without overburdening the reader. They were there for their purpose and left once it was completed. I think it really added something that there were so many different types of relationships being portrayed because it gave the story a more realistic feel. People don’t usually interact with only their best friends and families, there are acquaintances and distanced relationships that give a fullness to a social network.

I also enjoyed the characters themselves. Nora has secrets and difficulties, but she has relied on herself to cope with the stresses of her life. At the same time, she’s not ashamed to ask for help when she really needs it. Leo and his younger brother are wonderful examples of the variances that exist within families. They may look quite similar, but their personalities are the expression their individuality.

What I Didn’t Like: Now, despite all that great stuff, this book has some major issues. At times I felt like Nora was trying way too hard to be something she wasn’t. She was trying to act tough and reckless via this horribly stereotypical list of actions she created. I can’t truly get behind a lot of what she chose to do because it just seemed way too out of character for her.

The worst bit about the book was the sexual issues. This is another book that should come with a trigger warning because I did not see that assault coming. I knew there was something fishy going on with Nora and a certain character, but I never would have dreamed that it would turn out to be that grievous. Even more horrid was the manner in which the incident was handled. I know it has a lot to do with Nora’s development into the person she is becoming, but it was hard for me to even stomach the notion.

Finally, the love story between Nora and Leo felt forced a lot of the time. I think this was more a problem of writing style than anything because there is a fine line that has to be traversed when writing about characters resisting their attraction to another character. Needless to say, I was a bit confused at times.

Overall Impression: This book had me going back and forth. Something I was absolutely in love with what was going on and laughing alongside the characters. Other times I wanted to throw it across the room because it felt out-of-balance. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to read it again.

Laura’s Rating:
2 Frogs

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About Brianna: Supermom by day, naughty reader by night. Addicted to chocolate, Twitter, her iPad, her Kindle, and 99¢ Kindle deals. You can follow Brianna on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram.


  1. Well, this sounds like a good book from the blurb
    But the whole trigger thing bothers me
    The blurb should say something about that
    great review
    Your reader,

  2. Sometimes I feel like certain things really do warrant a warning or note in the blurb or somewhere on the book so that people aren't blindsided.


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