Bad Things, the debut thriller from Kristina Tanso, is a house of tension that doesn’t shy away from exploring the ageless traumas of high school and its lasting consequences. The novel opens with hints of a violent crime seen through the eyes of a teenage Delphine, the central protagonist of the novel. The action then cycles from past to present, which finds the adult Delphine face to face with her presumed-to-be-dead best friend from high school: Ariana.
Delphine’s perfectly curated life is soon under threat, as the darkness of her youth re-enters her life, ushering in all the delicately implied violence of the first chapter. Inevitably, the former friends’ reunion after years apart can’t repair the damage that transpired in high school. Ariana’s struggles with poverty and abuse make her the subject of cruel jibes and gossip at the trio’s prep school, a backstory with flavors of Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Sharp Objects) and Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep). This shaped her into a bitter and mercurial adult, hellbent on seeking revenge for what she was put through in high school. Ryan, the object of both women’s affection in high school, is inevitably thrown into the mix, as he also has a few secrets of his own to hide.
Bad Things unpacks a complex, yet enthralling tale through unreliable narrators and a classic doomed love triangle between the privileged Delphine, her mysterious best friend Ariana, and the elusive Ryan.
Tanso keeps the pace gripping within each chapter with frequent time and point-of-view shifts. Following the overarching plot requires a little memory but the effort is rewarding. The themes of forbidden love and class strife are well rendered, and the various secrets and strands come together in a satisfying finale.