As I got older I fell in love with Courtney Love and Hole and scoffed at the girls who wore chunky sneakers and sang Spice up Your Life. I wrote Riot Grrrl across a ripped white t-shirt and wore Doc boots instead of heels. I was a bad girl. Or a badgirl wannabe. I was never a real bad girl like Alvina Knightly in Chloe Esposito’s new novel, Mad. Despite my best efforts I was conditioned by society (and my mother) to care about people. I could dress like I gave no fucks but secretly I gave them all.
I cared if old people thought I was rude or disrespectful. I cared if my teachers thought I was unmotivated or lacklustre. I cared if people thought I was weird. In fact I cared so much that dressing like I didn’t care was my way of saying “fuck y’all!” before anyone had had a chance to tease me.
Being a highly sensitive empath meant that hurting people’s feelings was a travesty. As much as I hated having my own feelings hurt, inconveniencing others, or saying something to offend them, made me DIE with guilt. I would wallow over conversations fretting that I had somehow offended someone and debating whether or not to apologise. I always wished I could care less and be a real bad girl who tore through life, face forward, eye on the prize. I secretly wanted to be Alvina Knightly and I hadn’t even met her yet.
Alvina Knightly is not a nice girl. But she doesn’t give a shit. She’s the girl all of us are sometimes, even if only in our heads. The girl with a mean inner monologue, impatient with people who dawdle in front of them, blocking the sidewalk. The girl who sees someone fall over on the street and thinks, oh fuck, I suppose I should help them up, but then doesn’t. The girl who scoffs at bad drivers and sniggers at overweight people gutsing a mac attack at the food court. The girl who rolls her eyes at the sound of crying children, muttering under her breath “shut the fuck up kid”.
She’s me when I have PMS and want to tell everyone to piss the fuck off. She’s me during ovulation when I want to mount every hot young man I see; smiling at them while I imagine suctioning my groin to their faces, like a catfish.
Just like in Sweet Valley High, Alvina is a twin. She is the bad twin. Her sister Beth is the Elisabeth to her Jessica. The Mother Theresa to her Courtney Love.
Despite Alvina being completely and utterly unlikeable, you can’t help but love her. She’s a heartless bitch. She’s selfish and self-absorbed, but she’s hilarious. And she’s not all bad. She does have feelings. For instance she truly loves her 10 inch dildo Mr Dick and when her twin sister asks her to come and visit her in Italy, stay in her palatial home and spend time with her Adonis of a husband and perfect baby boy, she doesn’t want to but she goes anyway. She’s not a total bitch; and of course she’s just lost her job and been chucked out of her flat, so why not right?
Though things as not as perfect as they seem in Taormina, Italy. For instance, who is the strange dark suited man who hovers around Beth’s husband, casually packing heat? And why is the subject of what’s Beth’s husband does for a living so strictly off limits? Meh! Alvina doesn’t care. Not when Beth’s busy buying her new outfits and letting her live in the lap of luxury asking for nothing in return.
Alvina’s about to learn that no one ever gives anything away for free. Not even perfect, supposedly “good” people like her sister Beth. And despite Alvina’s heartless nature, we learn that she wasn’t necessarily born bad. Who we’re made to believe we are is often the person we become.
Mad is the book first in a trilogy, preluding Bad and Dangerous to Know. It is a rollicking read, a slap in the face, an orgasm. Quick, fiery and lusty.
If you’ve ever wanted to ride a long side a bad girl, see how they live, think and breathe, Alvina’s your gal. But be warned: she takes no prisoners and gives absolutely zero fucks.