Header Image

Review: When We Were Bright and Beautiful by Jillian Medoff

Title: When We Were Bright and Beautiful

Author: Jillian Medoff
Year published: 2022
Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 336 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map): USA (CT, NY)

SummaryYou can have everything, and still not have enough. 

Cassie Quinn may only be twenty-three, but she knows a few things. One: money can’t buy happiness, but it’s certainly better to have it. Two: family matters most. Three: her younger brother Billy is not a rapist.

When Billy, a junior at Princeton, is arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Cassie races home to Manhattan to join forces with her big brother Nate and their parents, Lawrence and Eleanor. The Quinns scramble to hire the best legal minds money can buy, but Billy fits the all-too-familiar sex-offender profile—white, athletic, and privileged—that makes headlines and sways juries.

Meanwhile, Cassie struggles to understand why Billy’s ex Diana would go this far, even if the breakup was painful. And she knows how the end of first love can destroy someone: Her own years-long affair with a powerful, charismatic man left her shattered, and she’s only recently regained her footing.   

As reporters converge outside their Upper East Side landmark building, the Quinns gird themselves for a media-saturated trial, and Cassie vows she’ll do whatever it takes to save Billy. But what if that means exposing her own darkest secrets to the world?

Review: I thought it was interesting that this book is told from the other side: the young man who is accused of the crime (well, the story is told by his sister). I was immediately skeptical, assuming he was guilty, and wondering what redeeming qualities a book could have that shows this horrible crime from the point of view of the white privileged male.

I should have known that there would be more to the story and there is. I still think he's guilty, but there is so much more to this family, to how we sacrifice for our loved ones, and how money affects families and society. None of the characters is really super likable, but I could also empathize with them at some level so the novel works.

Is this a great novel? No, but it is definitely interesting and the twist is effective. And, I like that it demonstrates how the veneer/outward appearance of a family never shows what is really going on behind the scenes. 

Challenges for which this counts: none

No comments