Having absolutely adored Kit Frick’s I Killed Zoe Spanos, I’ve been anxiously waiting to read her dark academia mystery Very Bad People. The publisher granted me an eARC of the book literally 12 hours before publication, but that didn’t stop me from devouring this one in two sittings! If you like your characters morally grey and enjoy moral debate, this is a book for you!
Just be warned that the ending is evil.
About Very Bad People
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books • Release Date: April 5, 2022 • Pages: 336
Age Range: Young Adult • Genre: Mystery • Format: eBook • Source: Netgalley
Six years ago, Calliope Bolan’s mother drove the family van into a lake with her three daughters inside. The girls escaped, but their mother drowned, and the truth behind the “accident” remains a mystery Calliope is determined to solve. Now sixteen, she transfers to Tipton Academy, the same elite boarding school her mother once attended. Tipton promises a peek into the past and a host of new opportunities—including a coveted invitation to join Haunt and Rail, an exclusive secret society that looms over campus like a legend.
Calliope accepts, stepping into the exhilarating world of the “ghosts,” a society of revolutionaries fighting for social justice. But when Haunt and Rail commits to exposing a dangerous person on campus, it becomes clear that some ghosts define justice differently than others.
As the society’s tactics escalate, Calliope uncovers a possible link between Haunt and Rail and her mother’s deadly crash. Now, she must question what lengths the society might go to in order to see a victory—and if the secret behind her mother’s death could be buried here at Tipton.
📖 Dark Academia
💗 First love
🏰 Boarding school
🤫 Secret societies
This post uses affiliate links and I may receive a small commission for purchases made through my links at no additional cost to you. Click here for more information.
Read an Excerpt
Casually queer world
death of a parent, murder, statutory rape (off-page), suicide (off-page)
My Review of Very Bad People
Overall I enjoyed this one, but imagine you read an entire book and the very last paragraph makes you groan and leaves a sour taste in your mouth. 😭
“It’s the Bolan girls. The ones who survived. We don’t live in a fairy tale, but people regard us, sometimes, as if we are more story than girl. More myth than flesh that hurts and bleeds and grieves.“
Sixteen year old Calliope lives in a small town in the Adirondacks with her father and two younger sisters, a life where she is known by everyone and her trauma is common knowledge. I can’t imagine having the worst day of my life on everyone’s mind and being something I cannot escape, so my heart instantly hurt for Calliope and her family. The hometown she never envisioned leaving suddenly became a place she couldn’t wait to escape.
Mysteries old and new collide when sixteen year old Calliope transfers to Tipton Academy and she realizes there may be more to the “accident” that caused her mother’s death six years ago. She’s almost immediately tapped to join Haunt and Rail, the only active secret society at the academy. But where most secret societies brim with privilege and elitism, Haunt and Rail serves as a social justice society that encourages the school and community to do better.
“The society’s purpose will be to haunt and rail, that is to clandestinely observe injustices, inequities, and bad actors at Tipton Academy, and to rail against their wrongs.”
A girl who’s been searching for where she belongs, Calliope finds her place at Tipton and a purpose within Haunt and Rail. But are things as good as they seem?
Full of moral quandaries and ethical debate, Calliope is forced to reconcile her belief in the rules with disruption of inspiring change. Is it wrong to break a rule if it is for a good reason? If so, how big of a rule can you break before it skews into Bad Territory?
“Tipton guards its own, even when it means protecting very bad people.”
I loved the subtle critique on the systems in place that make progress difficult and how Tipton Academy basically serves as a microcosm for society at large. The people in power protect their own and the systems in place are built to maintain the status quo. The red tape and bureaucracies, how often (student) government actions make little progress at all; it highlights not only the need for social justice but also importance of awareness campaigns… and how they must appeal to what people care about.
“I came back to Tipton ready to open my eyes to the real story, messy and imperfect, and that’s exactly what I got.”
While I wasn’t fully invested in any of the characters per se, I really liked the relationship between Calliope and Nico. They are just two kids who have no idea what they’re doing, full of awkward behavior and assumptions. It was so refreshing to see Calliope be brave and direct, expressing not only what she wants and asking for permission, but also seeking clarification to avoid misunderstandings.
This is a book that’s a wild ride, fully engaging with a web of secrets and mysteries the reader and Calliope must unravel together. The writing style is very blunt and to the point, which makes it easy to consume in one sitting. The ending isn’t quite what I like to see in a book, but I can understand why Kit wrote it the way she did (doesn’t mean I like it though!). If you like your characters morally grey, then Very Bad People is a must-read!
Recommended to fans of dark academia, especially those who love their characters morally grey.
Recommended if you enjoyed…
No two readers experience a book in the same way; this was mine, but what about you?
💬 Have you read Very Bad People yet? If so, what are your thoughts?
💬 Did I convince you to add this book to your TBR?
💬 What are your favorite boarding school mystery books?