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  • Mandy McHugh

Bad Habits, Amy Gentry: A Review

With an intriguing cover, title, and blurb, I was thrilled to be approved for this title.

Estranged friends Mac and Gwen reunite at a conference, reminiscing about their relationship and the events that led to their separation. At one time, they had been close, watching old movies and sharing secrets while vying for the same grad school fellowship. Their differences compound, however, when each woman strikes up a relationship with a powerful married couple leading the Program; and in a night of reflection, old grudges and suspicions come to light. I really enjoyed this book. Character driven, Mac is really the star of the show, and her arc is a fascinating study in toxic relationships. From a young age, she struggles to relate to the people around her, never feeling accepted, feeling like she'll never belong. The obligation she feels to provide for her mother and younger sister highlights her empathetic side, demonstrating she's more than just ambition, and her motivations to get out of her hometown transcend just "getting out." Gwen is her focal point, the tube she latches onto in order to pull herself out of her own misery, but then she has to deal with her own realization when reality doesn't live up to perception. There's also Bethany, who is a character study in itself, but together, these characters serve as building blocks of our impression and understanding of Mac. One thing I really related to was Mac's determination to succeed, yet accepting that she was at a financial disadvantage to her peers. Having put myself through grad school with copious loans, I found her struggle to survive in academia authentic and powerful. For many, the desire to be more than what we were given starts with an education, and it's not always handed on a silver platter. Balancing classes, reading, a full-time job, and a rigorous program requirement takes its toll, and the dark side of earning a degree felt right on the mark. I felt a little bogged down by details at times, expecting something more nefarious to happen but invested in the suspense unraveling, nonetheless. I also was disconnected from the conclusion, like there was a glazed-over bridge from the character development we had for the first half of the book to the last page, but this didn't detract from my reading experience. This is one that will resonate and simmer. Overall, Bad Habits is a twisty, psychologically-taut examination of friendship and ambition. Thank you to HMH/Mariner Books and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

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