Four seemingly unconnected individuals vanish from suburban Illinois in this sinuous, horror-tinged YA fantasy from Albert (Our Crooked Hearts). Teen best friends Nora Powell and Becca Cross have been estranged for months, but when Becca texts “I love you” and nothing else late one night, Nora runs over to check on her. She returns home angry after waiting for hours on the Cross family’s porch, where she found an abandoned drink and Becca’s phone. Upon learning that three people went missing overnight, Nora panics, believing the disappearances are related to Becca’s sudden radio silence. Then she starts finding clues left for her—ostensibly by Becca—alluding to a dangerous game they played as kids and the fictional goddesses it inspired them to create, leaving Nora with more questions than answers. Albert intercuts Nora’s first-person narration with occasional third-person flashbacks from Becca’s perspective that recount recent pivotal events, cleverly amplifying tension. Though the shaky integration of the supernatural elements leads to a somewhat unsatisfying denouement, Albert successfully evokes adolescence’s fraught hyperreality using richly textured, authentically angsty characters and a storytelling style by turns ethereal and electric. Main characters cue as white. Ages 14–up. Agent: Faye Bender, Book Group. (Feb.)
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“The supernatural creep factor is extreme, and there are secrets aplenty in this compelling and eerie tale.” —Booklist, starred review
“Unholy, vengeful, and utterly captivating. The Bad Ones delivers on Melissa Albert’s status as a modern horror master, and burns with a steady, corrosive clarity, not unlike a developing photograph revealing unseen evils.” —Ryan La Sala, author of The Honeys
“A deliciously dark and twisted labyrinth of a book from the master of YA horror. Peopled with some of the most believable teenage characters I've read, and full of the fervor and sharp edges of teen girl friendships, The Bad Ones had me hooked until the very last page.” —Heather Fawcett, author of Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries
“Melissa Albert writes the kind of horror that doesn’t just make you check under your bed—it makes you check your own reflection in the mirror. A black-veined, spectral howl of a novel, The Bad Ones cements Albert as the contemporary queen of suburban fantasy.” —Ava Reid, author of A Study in Drowning
“As twisting and intriguing as a puzzle box, The Bad Ones reveals secret after sinister secret, unfolding chilling layers right until the very end. Melissa Albert is a master of the uncanny.” —Erin A. Craig, author of House of Roots and Ruin
“The intensity of teen friendships is both fantastical and horrifying in Albert’s latest masterpiece. At turns achingly sweet and bitingly vicious—much like its characters—The Bad Ones is a tense, lyrical, and haunting must-read.” —Kiersten White, author of Mister Magic
“The Bad Ones opens with a terrifying and unsettling sequence of disappearances—and then the tension never relents. With beguiling prose and a simmering sense of dread, the book kept me absolutely spellbound as its darkly supernatural mystery unfolded." —Kate Alice Marshall, author of What Lies in the Woods
“I’m not the first to call Melissa Albert's writing magical and I won't be the last. In this latest, the spell she casts is in the intractable ties that form between girls, the kind that tangle into knots, the kind that make nets that both save and ensnare. Unsettling and unputdownable.” —Kendare Blake, author of Three Dark Crowns
“Albert seamlessly braids the murky past with the pin-sharp present to create a masterful horror-thriller with a bruised and tender heart.” —Laura Steven, author of The Society for Soulless Girls
“Stunning and immersive, The Bad Ones will entrance you in its hypnotic mythology ruled by the sinister powers of imagination. The real and the imagined collide in this haunting small town mystery shrouded in creeping dread, packed with twists, and brimming with revelations about the nature of good and evil and justice and vengeance. I dare you to put it down!” —Katy de Becerra, author of When Ghosts Call Us Home
“The Bad Ones is a slow-burning yet delectable story so sinister I wanted to keep reading it forever. Albert's prose is juicy and sharp, and will haunt you in all the best ways.” —Jamison Shea, author of I Feed Her to the Beat and the Beast Is Me
“The Bad Ones is a thrilling reminder of what horror that respects its audience can feel like. This was an addictively terrifying, beautifully vicious book.” —Courtney Summers, author of The Project
“By taking readers on a sublime journey where we are compelled to figure out a supernatural mystery as well as who her characters really are, Melissa Albert has crafted a unique tale with its own rhythm. A haunting, refreshingly layered story that will most certainly stay with you.” —Clarence A. Haynes, co-author of Nubia: The Awakening
“Albert successfully evokes adolescence’s fraught hyperreality using richly textured, authentically angsty characters and a storytelling style by turns ethereal and electric.” —Publishers Weekly
Gr 9 Up—At times lyrical in phrasing but always atmospheric, this occult thriller is one that readers will enjoy disappearing into because of its focus on the power of dark magic, childhood games, and imagination. Pulling no punches, entwining horror with intrigue, Albert opens with a gruesome prologue, immediately vanishing four important players. Nora discovers her former best friend Becca is one of the missing four but knows that the rumors of her running away are wrong, that her friend has left her vital clues. Despite a nasty recent falling out between them, Nora is determined to help Becca, to bring her back safely. Past events and exposition are creatively revealed through recollections rather than flashbacks, and the mystery increases with each additional chapter, winding all storylines into a complex and fascinating puzzle. The dread builds even during pauses in the action, adding in lost time, dissociation, possible hauntings, and Nora's inexplicable craving for huge amounts of sugar. Despite slow revelations and breadcrumb answers dropped throughout, the ending twists and surprises. Readers will feel as off-kilter as Nora, kept second-guessing themselves with each new reveal. All characters are presumed white with some LGBTQIA+ representation. VERDICT A fun, dark, delicious mystery choice for any library serving teens.—Kristen Rademacher
A teen girl follows cryptic clues left by her best friend, who disappeared into the night.
On a cold winter’s night, four people in a small Illinois town vanished into thin air. One of them was Nora’s best friend, Becca, whom she hadn’t spoken to in the three months since their falling out. Although they had been close since childhood, Nora and Becca’s relationship was marked by codependency—until the night when everything changed. But ever since a mysterious night the previous summer when Becca went alone into the woods for a few hours, Nora had sensed that her friend was growing distant. Following Becca’s disappearance, Nora discovered a series of messages she left pointing to their childhood goddess games, based on an urban legend. The game shifted when then-12-year-old Becca was grieving the death of her mother and seeking vengeance against the hit-and-run driver. The first part of the story is slow to get going; eventually, Nora begins to suspect that the key to the mystery lies in uncovering the origins of the goddess game. Albert slowly teases out the supernatural element, but the details remain shrouded in murkiness. What’s more interesting is the dynamic between the two friends; the story is mainly told from Nora’s perspective, as she’s the one left behind to pick up the pieces and figure out how to stand on her own. Main characters read white.
A deliberately paced tale for those who appreciate an eerie, character-driven mystery laced with supernatural horror. (Fantasy. 14-18)