Isn’t it funny that the books we’re drawn to read reflect a little in what’s going on in our own life? This book came to me when I was trying to figure out some of my own friend-related troubles; mind you mine don’t involve a plane crash that I may-or-may-not have caused…
Not Bad People is about three childhood friends: ambitious Melinda, anxious Aimee, and angry Lou, who celebrate New Year’s Eve with a “letting go” ceremony involving a floating lantern. What was supposed to be a harmless activity in embracing the New Year turns ugly when those peaceful lanterns catch on fire. Surely it’s fine; it’s just a piece of paper that would burn up quicker than it would burn down anything right? That’s what the women believe until the newspaper comes out the next day revealing that a plane, flown by a father and son, crashed leaving them both in critical condition. Melinda refuses to talk about the New Year’s Ceremony, it’s all Aimee can think about, and Lou has potentially bigger problems to work through. Suddenly 30-years’ worth of building resentment is coming out; but they’re not bad people.
Brandy Scott writes three compelling female characters all with their strengths and their gaping flaws. Scott explores themes of mental health, female relationships, community and internalized sexism. What I found particularly compelling was Melinda’s character journey. Melinda is a prolific businesswoman who owns and runs her own company, but doesn’t have a partner or children. Seeing her thoughts and feelings about having a career rather than a family were very relatable to me. Seeing the internalized sexism expressed by the women around her was harrowing and a bit of a wakeup call to me; that it’s okay to want a career and a family or only one of those things. Aimee’s anxieties and Lou’s rage were a little too close to home at times, but I suppose that means Scott is excellent at creating realistic characters. I would also like to say that even the side characters were very well rounded; I particularly loved the town gossip.
Brandy Scott’s story had very good pacing and enough mystery to keep me reading. The book constantly had me changing my opinion on what really happened to cause the crash, as well as the other events occurring in the three women’s lives. At some points the book made me feel claustrophobic, mirroring the tone of not being able to hide your secrets in a small community. It was truly refreshing to read a book set in a small part of Australia without it feeling like a big stereotype.
I will say, however, that reading this book was slightly challenging, not just because there were some parallels in my own life but because of the changing perspectives. I’m not usually a fan of changing perspectives in a book, I find that just when I get into a rhythm with one character it switches to another and I have to start all over again. Generally, it’s easier when a chapter starts with a clear note as to who I’m reading for that entire chapter, but that’s not the case in Not Bad People; Scott switches perspectives throughout a chapter making it, for someone like me, challenging to follow at certain points.
In saying that, Brandy Scott’s first novel was really fun for me to read, as it’s not the usual fantasy I have been devouring recently. It was a different take on the thriller genre, in that no one was plotting outright murder or trying to ruin anyone’s lives. I hope to see more thrillers and just in general more books from Brandy Scott; her debut is a great addition to the Australian literature scene.