‘You’re so lovely, I thought, when you’re lying to my face.’
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What I got from Bad Boy was not at all what I anticipated. And by that I mean I didn’t anticipate reading (what essentially felt like) a sequel to Wake’s 2015 release Black Iris.
Perhaps the reason I didn’t enjoy this as much is because I wasn’t a huge fan of Black Iris (as I was with Wake’s other books such as Cam Girl and Unteachable). If you enjoyed the Black Iris story more, my guess is you’d enjoy revisiting these characters. If you were content with the ending of Black Iris, I would tell you that this story is about Ren – a trans male sharing his experiences via Youtube, living a double life working for justice vigilante group – you guessed it – Black Iris.
As I’m familiar with Wake’s work, his style of writing and characters, I was surprised I disliked parts of the narrative. Personally some of the dialogue felt a little unnatural. There are times when Ren is breaking the fourth wall and communicating information directly to the reader. I don’t really like this ever in fiction, even in small doses. However it would be beneficial for those who haven’t read Black Iris and maybe wouldn’t understand some of the content otherwise.
I can’t say I enjoyed revisiting Black Iris characters, Laney and Blythe. I’m not entirely sure why, but they felt less like themselves and more like caricatures of themselves. It usually felt as though everything Laney said, she made a drama of it or it was highly exaggerated. Therefore she really lacked authenticity to me, which is a huge problem as I’m a reader who typically prefers character driven stories over plot driven.
Something that I think Wake excels at is mystery and sucking the reader into the story. He’s smart in how he chooses when and what information the reader gets. As the narrator gradually learns what’s going on in their surroundings, so does the reader and ultimately a healthy interest in the story is maintained. There is also a really good balance between the romance and the mystery elements, and didn’t feel as though either were overshadowed by each other.
Interestingly, the vibe I get from Skins is similar to the one I got whilst reading Bad Boy. The crudeness and vulgarity, accompanied with fantastic social commentary makes for a really interesting story. (Side not: Wouldn’t Kaya Scodelario be perfectly cast as Laney in an adaptation?)