Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Review: The Bad Ones by Melissa Albert

The Bad Ones by Melissa Albert
Flatiron Books
Publication Date: February 20th, 2024
Hardcover. 400 pages.

About The Bad Ones:

"Goddess, goddess, count to five
In the morning, who’s alive?

In the course of a single winter’s night, four people vanish without a trace across a small town.

Nora’s estranged best friend, Becca, is one of the lost. As Nora tries to untangle the truth of Becca’s disappearance, she discovers a darkness in her town’s past, as well as a string of coded messages Becca left for her to unravel. These clues lead Nora to a piece of local folklore: a legendary goddess of forgotten origins who played a role in Nora and Becca’s own childhood games..."

The Bad Ones is a YA mystery/horror that I think has great crossover appeal for YA and adult readers alike. I don’t really read all that much YA anymore, but I was intrigued by the premise for The Bad Ones and since the only Melissa Albert book I’ve read was The Hazel Wood back in 2018, I figured it was time to give her another read–and I was not disappointed.

The Bad Ones takes place in the small town of Palmetto where four people disappear over the course of one night. We follow Nora, a high school girl whose best friend, Becca, is one of the four people that went missing, leaving Nora behind to dive into what’s behind all of the disappearances. At the center of what Nora knows about Becca’s disappearance is an old local legend about a vengeful goddess who inspired a childhood game that has been played for decades by people in Palmetto.

We are immediately thrust into the story in the first chapter as we learn of the mysterious disappearances and Nora receives cryptic texts from Becca on the same night of her disappearance. Nora was a compelling and relatable character and I found myself really empathizing with her throughout the story. Nora’s relationship with Becca has been fraught in recent months with the two not talking after a fight, and I really felt like I could understand the tension and longing that is present in any struggling friendship. Becca has long used Nora as her ‘rock’ of sorts after losing both of her parents throughout her childhood, and it’s easy to see how this has caused excessive pressure for Nora throughout their friendship.

Albert tells the story through chapters set in both the present day and those set in the past that focus on Nora and Becca’s friendship, the goddess game, and more general background that helps readers slowly put all the pieces together as the story progresses. This is a slower-paced mystery that really takes readers through the ins and outs of different relationships between characters and sets up plenty of foundation for later events and explanations. I really liked the inclusion of the goddess game and all of the lore surrounding it, and I think that added so much mystery and intrigue to the story and kept me wanting to find out more about how the game would play into everything in the end. 

Albert also spends a good amount of time setting the tone of the story to be one that is dark, cryptic, and consistently foreboding. There is always an heir of something ‘other’ that is happening that left me always teetering between wondering if this book included only real, tangible elements or if there was something just a bit more in the ‘other’ or supernatural realm. I won’t tell you the answer to that, but I wanted to note it because I think it’s really magical how Albert seems to incorporate such a strong sense of wonder and disquietude to her writing.

Overall, I've given The Bad Ones four stars! I was really hooked on this story and found myself reading through it pretty quickly because I found it to be one of those riveting slow-burn horror/mysteries that draws you in quickly and makes it hard to put down. I think readers of both YA and adult will enjoy this one and if the premise intrigues you, then I'd encourage you to check it out!

*I received a copy of The Bad Ones in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Bookshop.org

1 comment:

  1. I loved her last book, Our Crooked Hearts, so I knew I'd love this too. And bonus that it's a good YA book for adults who don't usually like YA.