Kit Frick’s newest thriller, Very Bad People, bursts with boarding schools, secret societies, and murder, but ultimately, the set-up is more thrilling than the payoff.
Six years ago, Mrs. Bolan drove the family van into the lake with her three daughters still inside, seemingly for no reason. Desperate to get away from her small town that revels in her presence as one of the surviving sisters, Calliope “Callie” Bolan enrolls at Tipton Academy, the same boarding school that her mother attended.
Tipton provides Callie an escape from the mystery surrounding her mother’s death, as well as a slew of new opportunities and people that do not know her past. It also unearths one of Tipton’s most well-kept secret societies, the Haunt and Rail, who extend an invitation to Callie to join the society soon after her arrival at Tipton.
At first, Callie revels in the secrecy of the Haunt and Rail, which is a group of juniors and seniors that are the driving force behind many social justice campaigns on campus. But when Callie discovers a possible link between the Haunt and Rail society and her mother’s death, she realizes that their presence may not be the only thing that Haunt and Rail is keeping secret in Tipton.
Very Bad People exudes thrilling dark academia vibes
What I really enjoyed about Very Bad People was the dark academia vibes. It truly feels as though you are following alongside Callie as she explores the grounds throughout her first weeks of classes. And when Callie receives the coveted invitation to join Haunt and Rail, the scenes of Callie darting through the shadows in the night to get to their secret meetings were filled with suspense and nervous energy, as if we were at risk of getting caught out past curfew as well.
Secret societies are always fun to explore, and I do not see enough of them in YA fiction books nowadays. I love that Haunt and Rail’s mission is to push for social justice causes on campus; their ingenuity in tapping in students that have positions of authority on campus – student government, student worker positions, and prefects – makes their “larks” easy to pull off successfully.
The death of Callie’s mother is a mystery that is unraveled throughout the book
The last third of the book is where I was taken out of the story a little bit.
The mystery surrounding the death of Callie’s mother is present throughout the entire novel. Callie goes to Tipton as a way to escape her town’s gossip about her and her sisters, and also as a way to connect with her mother. However, she almost instantly sees someone on campus that could have been present – and perhaps responsible – for her mother’s death: a blonde man with sun-burned cheeks. This is Callie’s only true lead, and she works it to dust as she struggles to uncover the identity of the man.
Callie takes different approaches and paths to figure out how this man is connected. She even latches onto former members of the Haunt and Rail as possible suspects.
Callie eventually learned the identity of the man, as well as the true reason behind her mother’s death. Both of these reveals emerged as huge plot twists. While both seemed plausible and weren’t incredibly outlandish upon looking back in the book, they happened so quickly in succession that I could not wrap my head around how they were executed and how it impacts the rest of the book.
The ending of the book revealed one last gut-punch of a twist, and one that would have horrid repercussions for Callie and left her with another secret to keep. I was not a huge fan as to how this was handled, and it resulted in an abrupt and open-ended conclusion as to the fates of Callie, her sisters, and the Haunt and Rail society.
Loose ends are not tied in this book, at least not on page. You are left with no clear cut answers as to what happens with these characters, so readers are forced to infer about their fates because the ending leaves so much to the imagination.
If you enjoy those stories, then Very Bad People is certainly a recommendation I would gladly provide! However, because much of this story surrounded a mystery that ended in a less-than-satisfying way, I personally had a hard time coming to grips with the story and the way it ended.
Very Bad People by Kit Frick was released on April 5th, 2022.