Bad Behaviour


Reading Bad Behaviour was like reading Looking for Alibrandi for the first time. Here was a book that was about an Australian teenager, going to school in a system that I recognised, experiencing an adolescence that was actually somewhat like my own.

Bad Behaviour is Rebecca Starford’s memoir of her time in the abovementioned year-long separation from the world. You know how high school is like real life in a microcosm? Well this Year 10 program seems to be high school in a microcosm. It seemed like Starford was stuck on a year-long camp with her entire year level, and let me tell you, a week out in the bush hiking and bonding with my peers was plenty long enough for me.

Everything about this book rang true to my experience of secondary school. I lived in the country, so the warped gum trees and dry grasses and bitter, foggy cold of winter mornings was all so familiar to me, it was like actually being back in Year 9. As I was reading – particularly the first few chapters, where Starford introduces the school and the landscape and the girls – I was thinking, yes. This is what school was actually like for me. After years of reading as much YA as I could get my hands on, finally I’d found a book written by someone who was like me, who’d had my experiences. None of this casual-clothes-wearing, A-Level-fretting business that goes on in English and American YA novels. Bad Behaviour was a book that I actually connected with.

The book starts explosively, with the kind of prank that actually made my stomach drop with secondhand fear. From there it’s mostly chronological, and Starford doesn’t shy away from the nastier and more confusing aspects of adolescence – getting bullied by the popular girls, doing out-of-character things to get your peers to like you, worrying about being called a baby just because you were a little homesick.

In Bad Behaviour, Starford looks at that one defining year of her adolescence – and let’s face it, Year 9 is a pretty defining year in most peoples’ lives – and how it affected the rest of her life. How her willingness to compromise her principles and side with the bullies, to check herself and get bullied in return; how her attempts to reach out to her mother, tempered by long silences from both ends; all added up to shape the woman she became.

It’s an interesting thought. When I was in Year 9, I wanted to be a lawyer. I was terrified that I’d never get a boyfriend. I spent hours upon hours reading the same books alone in my room. Now, I’m in law school. I’ve been in a relationship for ten years. And I blog about books, because I still spend hours upon hours reading alone in my room.

Bad Behaviour rang true for me because it’s set in my world. It discusses the very true fact that fourteen is when we start becoming who we are, and how the experiences we have at that age shape the adults we become.


3 thoughts on “Bad Behaviour

  1. Funny that you mention 14 being the age. I was suicidal from about 9-13. A large part of it being bullied by my peers and not fitting in. Among home life as well was rocky. For me, it was a particular song from a particular artist that changed my way of thinking but from 13 on. I knew that life can be better. Life is what we make of it. So in this sense, 14 rings true for me too. At that point I was still unsure of what I wanted to be (career in life)-I said Vet, Corp Lawyer (I even took 1.5 years of Japanese in High School), a social worker…eventually I dropped out of high school, took my GED and I am now a (travel) nurse, doing well for myself.

    We all have choices in life. We have paths to choose. We can either follow or ground out a new one. I choose the latter. My life is much different than I saw it at 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and even 14. My life is an opposite life than my siblings or my mother. But those experiences still shape of who we are and who we become.

    • Hey Paula, thanks for being so candid.

      I know that for me, the goals and dreams and priorities I held when I was 14 are the ones I keep coming back to. Writing short stories, wanting to be a lawyer, being close to my family – I’ve had detours since then, but I always came back to those same things.

      Thanks again for your comment, and for dropping by.

  2. Pingback: TBR: Books I’ve Bought in 2015 | Fiction & flowers

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