Author Interview & Review: Very Bad People by Kit Frick
Very Bad People, the newest mystery-thriller from Kit Frick, is available now. We’ve been longtime fans of Kit, since she’s semi-local to Kelly. To celebrate Very Bad People, we checked in with Kit about her craft & characters. Check out our thoughts about Very Bad People and an interview with Kit below!
Very Bad Peopleby Kit Frick
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books
on April 5, 2022
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
First editions have an exclusive foil design underneath the jacket!
In this dark academia young adult thriller for fans of The Female of the Species and People Like Us, a teen girl’s search for answers about her mother’s mysterious death leads to a powerful secret society at her new boarding school—and a dangerous game of revenge that will leave her forever changed.
Six years ago, Calliope Bolan’s mother drove the family van into a lake with her three daughters inside. The girls escaped, but their mother drowned, and the truth behind the “accident” remains a mystery Calliope is determined to solve. Now sixteen, she transfers to Tipton Academy, the same elite boarding school her mother once attended. Tipton promises a peek into the past and a host of new opportunities—including a coveted invitation to join Haunt and Rail, an exclusive secret society that looms over campus like a legend.
Calliope accepts, stepping into the exhilarating world of the “ghosts,” a society of revolutionaries fighting for social justice. But when Haunt and Rail commits to exposing a dangerous person on campus, it becomes clear that some ghosts define justice differently than others.
As the society’s tactics escalate, Calliope uncovers a possible link between Haunt and Rail and her mother’s deadly crash. Now, she must question what lengths the society might go to in order to see a victory—and if the secret behind her mother’s death could be buried here at Tipton.
What I loved about Very Bad People is that, indeed, there were some very bad people within the story. At the end I was like, omg WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE (the answer: poor boundaries, privilege, systems set up to protect the wealthy…). I also loved that there were multiple mysteries and none of them led to where I thought they might go.
There’s a little bit of all the things we love about dark academia – an exclusive school, generational attendance, secret societies – and secrets galore. Very Bad People also feels different than other dark academia in that there are multiple mysteries to solve, with some outside of the boundaries of the school.
The ending came swift and with many twists and turns. Some might call it polarizing but it checked every box for me!
1. Tell us about Calliope. Which of your previous characters would she be best friends with?
We meet Calliope Bolan, Very Bad People’s leading lady, at a real turning point moment in her life. She’s on the cusp of leaving home for Tipton Academy, the boarding school her mother attended as a teen. Calliope hopes to both learn more about her mother and to escape the small town where she’s been growing up in an uncomfortable spotlight since her mother’s tragic death six years ago. Once she gets to Tipton, Calliope’s going to begin revisiting her mother’s mysterious death—a drowning incident that she and her sisters survived—and following a strong hunch that there was a lot more to what happened than meets the eye.
She would probably get along best with Ellory, the protagonist of my first novel Before We Were Sorry, previously titled See All the Stars. They’re both quite introspective, and both are coping with loss. And Martina—the teen podcast reporter from I Killed Zoe Spanos—would find Calliope’s story fascinating, if Calliope would tell it!
Fun fact: two of my protagonists actually meet at the midpoint of Very Bad People! Keep your eyes open for a cameo from one of my prior books. 🙂
2. How did you create the world in Very Bad People? What did your research look like?
Like many people who didn’t themselves attend boarding school, I’ve always been fascinated by fictional representations of such elite institutions. Much of my inspiration for Tipton Academy was drawn from the small liberal arts college I attended. I’ve always wanted to channel that unique college experience—which was shot through with some of the privilege, and the focus on finding your individual path, and the campus activism, that readers will find in Very Bad People—into a YA novel. Tipton is entirely fictional, but it’s a campus not unlike real-life boarding schools in many ways.
In terms of other research, I spoke with friends with firsthand boarding school experience to discuss their campus cultures and fact check a few questions. The Haunt and Rail Society isn’t based on a specific secret society, although I did do all the reading I could get my hands on (and as you can imagine it’s limited because secret societies are, by definition, secret). There have been, reportedly, a few such student organizations at boarding schools and many more at colleges and universities. But instead of modeling Haunt and Rail after a specific real-life secret society, I thought instead about what might drive a group of highly intelligent, motivated students at an elite boarding school. And the answer was of course that at the most idyllic, privileged institutions on earth, there are always imbalances of power and often corruption. For adolescents navigating the high school experience anywhere, these power imbalances—often between students and the authorities—are front of mind. So I made addressing these relatable teen issues the focus of Haunt and Rail.
3. If teenage Kit went to Tipton, how would you have navigated the culture and environment?
I attended a large suburban public high school and dreamed about going to a school like Tipton. So in many ways, I think I would have loved it, especially all the campus traditions and lore. But in terms of the Haunt and Rail Society, I would have definitely been nervous if asked to join. I’m such a rule-follower! But I honestly don’t think I would have been able to resist the invitation’s allure. At Calliope’s age, I was so hungry to be part of things—social groups, in-jokes, and especially anything private, secret, and by invitation only. So I’d probably find myself in Calliope’s exact shoes if I had gone to Tipton.