Reed’s Recommendation Corner: The Bad Ones by Melissa Albert

 Friendships are not easy. Neither is high school. When four people mysteriously disappear in one night in a small town, Nora suddenly finds herself looking for her estranged best friend. 

Welcome, friends, to The Bad Ones by Melissa Albert. 

Photo from Reactor/

In the town of Palmetto, Becca and Nora find are two typical teenagers, bored with life in a small town. They are best friends and the weirdos, the outcasts, the creeps. Nora has a reputation for being a liar - but really, she is a dreamer. Together, they create a photography series of goddesses that harnesses Nora’s story telling and Becca’s eye for photos. It turns dark when Becca’s mother is killed in a hit and run, and they create a goddess of revenge. 

In Palmetto, there are two goddess games: a jump rope rhyme and a teenage version of a trust fall (one that puts one person in danger). 

How do these tie together? And where have these four people gone? Where is Becca and what are the mysterious clues she has left for her best friend?

This is a tale of toxic friendship, of secrets, and of revenge. In it, Nora struggles to deal with Becca’s sudden neediness with the loss of her parents (her father dies of cancer and she is living with her stepmother).  Nora tries to comfort her as best as she can, but when Becca nearly gets her killed during the darker version of the goddess game, she finally can’t handle it anymore. 

Growing up is hard. Growing up after losing both of your parents, in a town with dark secrets that are often overlooked to keep the peace, is even harder. Becca tries to find a purpose, while Nora fears that the goddess game might have gotten out of control. Both are failed by the adults around them in various ways, even with the best intentions.

When I started this novel, I didn’t realize that it was considered young adult. I am consistently amazed at the things we forget about high school as we get older. I had a highly toxic relationship in high school, one that helped drive me to a mental and emotional breakdown when I was 18. In high school, we are moving towards being an adult, stretching for independence and identity, while struggling with a world that still sees us as children. I loved the way Nora interacted with the world around her, trying to find her place in it as herself, not just as Becca’s best friend. I loved that she and Becca were only really treated as an adult when it was convenient for others around them. 

The twists and turns written into this surprised me and definitely had me devouring this book over the course of a day or so. I would recommend this for anyone who likes dark fantasy and horror and “easy” reading (books that the language and flow move quickly while you are reading, not the subject matter). Trigger warnings include sexual abuse of minors, revenge porn, and bullying. 

Remember, when the last chapter is read, and the final page turned, I shall be here with a new book suggestion, should you need it.