Bad Behaviour is Rebecca Starford’s debut book and memoir. Starford is well-known as the co-founder of the Kill Your Darlings journal. She is also a publisher at Affirm Press, a current contributor to The Age and The Australian newspapers and the former deputy editor of the Australian Book Review.
This book is a series of chapters from Starford’s life and it is primarily set in Geelong Grammar School’s Timbertop campus in 1998. In Bad Behaviour, Starford is brutally honest as she chronicles the time she spent in boarding school in regional Victoria. It was here that she lived with 14 other teenage girls in a largely unsupervised and occasionally rather dramatic environment.
For Starford, life at Silver Creek started off happily enough after she found herself in a friendship group with the most popular girls in the house. But this circle of friends was also headed by some aggressive bullies who were hell-bent on misbehaving and ignoring the teachers. At first Starford joined in with these disobedient acts because she longed to feel included. But things took a turn for the worse when these queen bees turned around and then started bullying and picking on Rebecca.
This story is told via the use of two main threads, one sees Starford remembering various incidents from her time at Silver Creek. The other is rooted in the present day and examines how this formative year at school affected and shaped her subsequent relationships. It is fascinating to see how a school, which had such utopian aims (for example, to instil confidence and build resilience and independence in its charges) in some cases had the opposite effect, especially on the most socially vulnerable girls who constantly struggled to find their place in the clique.
Rebecca Starford’s writing is very honest and readable but there are moments where the reader is left wanting to know a little bit more detail about the characters involved. This is particularly important in the more current scenes where Rebecca forms new love interests and friends but these are not as fully fleshed out as characters as the ones from when she was a teen. In spite of some minor flaws, Bad Behaviour is a good and relatable book that should inspire readers to take stock and consider how their teenage years shaped their adult lives.