DNF Series Review: Briarwood Academy by Ilsa Madden-Mills

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 2: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete as I have never finished the first novel in the series. Find out why these weren’t for me:


Synopsis for Very Bad Things (from Goodreads):

Born into a life of privilege and secrets, Nora Blakely has everything any nineteen-year-old girl could desire. She’s an accomplished pianist, a Texas beauty queen, and on her way to Princeton after high school. She’s perfect…

Leaving behind her million-dollar mansion and Jimmy Choos, she becomes a girl hell-bent on pushing the limits with alcohol, drugs, and meaningless sex.

Then she meets her soulmate. But he doesn’t want her.

When it comes to girls, twenty-five-year-old Leo Tate has one rule: never fall in love. His gym and his brother are all he cares about… until he meets Nora. He resists the pull of their attraction, hung up on their six year age difference.

As they struggle to stay away from each other, secrets will be revealed, tempers will flare, and hearts will be broken.

Welcome to Briarcrest Academy… where sometimes, the best things in life are Very Bad Things.


Series: Briarwood Academy
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Dark
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: September 2013 – July 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook


Disclaimer: I stopped reading Very Bad things at 18% (start of Chapter 4). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Ilsa Madden-Mills is one of my must read authors and this series had been on my radar for a very long time. Because I was looking for audiobooks to listen too, I opted to listen to this series even though I have a few of the books for my Kindle. I was looking forward to the angsty romance so I was very excited to read this.

What I Liked:


I really struggled to get into this book and there wasn’t much I enjoyed…

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Age Gap–

While the rest of the novel falls into some pretty predictable stereotypes (I think you read the synopsis and you already know where this book is going to go), it was the age gap between the two leads that just creeped me right out.
I think if Nora was a little older (like her first year in university) it would have made things less icky. Her need to rebel just made her “connection” to Leo something more devious than it was. Now, normally I’d be on board for this exploration of this somewhat twisted relationship dynamic. But I felt like Nora was trying to hard to be something she wasn’t as she rebelled and she seemed so fragile that it felt like Leo was manipulating her situation and I didn’t like that imbalance.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m not sure if reading the book would have been better than listening to it.

Will I Finish It?

I don’t think so. While some of the other characters seemed interesting (and they became the leads in the next books), I just didn’t like the direction this series was going in.

My Rating: DNF

Very Bad Things DNF | Very Wicked Things N/A | Very Twisted Things N/A


If you love angsty reads or books that straddle the YA/NA line, you’ll enjoy this series.

Read if You Like: angsty leads, tragic pasts, high school bully
Avoid if You: dislike angst; don’t like age gap romances


Have you read this? Should I return to this series? Leave a comment!

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