Book Review: Not Bad People by Brandy Scott
Brandy Scott’s debut novel, Not Bad People, is about three friends who engage in what seems to be a harmless act, but instead results in tragedy. How will they react?
Not Bad People is the first novel by writer Brandy Scott that tells the story of three 30-something friends who live in a small, mostly wealthy town in Australia. The women have been friends for years, though each has taken a different path. Melinda is an uber-successful businesswoman, Aimee is a doting mother and dedicated wife, and Lou is a grown-up teen mom who still struggles with raising her daughter with little support. The three women are bound together by their childhoods in a mostly-loving, sometimes dysfunctional friendship.
The story begins innocently enough, with the three women enjoying a few drinks and releasing paper lanterns in a symbolic letting go ceremony on New Year’s Eve. The next day, they are horrified to discover a neighbor and his son were involved in a small airplane crash that threatens the carefully built lives they have erected over the past three decades.
Did their lanterns cause the airplane crash? If it did, should they acknowledge the crime or take their secret to their grave? Who could really say if the lanterns caused the action? Or, was the accident caused by something else entirely? How much responsibility are we morally obligated to take when one simple action has unintended consequences?
Much of the story is based on the women grappling with this struggle, along with other challenges in their respective lives.
One feature that stands out in Not Bad People is the shifting of writing style as each woman slips to the forefront. By alternating between punchy, short sentences, authentic dialogue, and complex inner thoughts, we get to know each woman’s personality—and flaws.
This passage, for example, details the mental ramblings of an anxious Aimee:
“Why had she run? Why the hell had she run? Aimee walked back and forth across the living room, watched by a suspicious Oscar. Running would only make her look guilty. Make the investigator remember her. Why had she even spoken to him at all?
Think, Aimee, think. There must be something she could do to make her behaviour seem more rational. Go back, maybe explain she was a friend of the family. That if she was acting a little odd, it was only because she was so upset.”
Too often, women in books are portrayed as flat. They are loving mothers or dedicated business women. They love their husbands or they cheat without care. Life isn’t so simple, though is it? The women in Not Bad People are catty, forgiving, loving, determined, lost, lonely, and sometimes fiercely protective of each other and their families. The complexity of the characters and multiple plot lines kept the story moving and interesting.
Overall, Not Bad People was a fantastic read. The possible crime is not the only focus of the book, so readers who prefer police procedurals might not favor the relationship-driven plot. However, it was an easy, satisfying read.