Something Bad is Going to Happen

Jessie Stephens

Something Bad is Going to Happen
Pan Macmillan Australia
29 August 2023

Something Bad is Going to Happen

Jessie Stephens

Adella is facing the dawn of a new year and the end of her twenties - and she's in a psychiatric unit recovering from a mental breakdown. A decade earlier, her life held such promise; she had every option in her hand. How did it come to this?

As we go back and walk with Adella through her twenties, she searches for her grand purpose through love, career and travel. At her side through the tumultuous highs and lows is her best friend, Jake, facing his own challenges and opportunities. They both know the future must have something better to offer - but why does it also always feel, in the bottom of their stomachs, as though something bad is going to happen?

Raw and revelatory, Something Bad is Going to Happen is a heart-stopping new work from one of Australia's most exciting writers. Dealing with the weight young women bear through pressure, anxiety, rejection, this is a generation-defining novel - wise, witty, deeply compelling.


A writing teacher once told me that it’s difficult to write about characters experiencing depression, without depressing the reader. However, this is not the case in Jessie Stephens’ novel, Something Bad is Going to Happen. Even though we meet the protagonist, Adella, when she’s an inpatient at a psychiatric clinic, Stephens uses great dialogue and some humour to keep the reader interested and move the story along.

By 28, Adella thought she would have a fulfilling job and a loving relationship. But she has given up on her PhD, can’t hold on to her job, and is barely leaving her bedroom in her share house. And then the novel backtracks eight years and traces Adella’s journey to this point.

At 20, we see Adella falling for a guy who is clearly only interested in sleeping with her. While she is academically intelligent, she lacks emotional awareness. Her sister Lottie and friend Sophia can see this, and Stephens allows the reader even more insight. I groaned and wanted to cover my eyes at Adella’s self-destructive behaviour, but as more is revealed, Adella’s choices make sense in the context of her childhood.

Adella’s 20-something friends give the novel greater breadth, and the dialogue between them is excellent. After a family tragedy, Jake has left school for a carpentry apprenticeship but secretly longs to be an architect. Sophia is the friend who protects Adella, until that comes at a personal cost. And Adella’s sister Lottie tries valiantly to forge her own relationship, while feeling obliged to care for both her sister and her mother.

The title is ominous yet intriguing. Initially, I wondered if it referred to Adella’s mindset, or a seminal event. But I can’t give anything away! Stephens’ debut novel is an astute examination of intergenerational mental illness, and what ‘recovery’ looks like.

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