When We Were Bright and Beautiful: A Novel
“Two parts Gone Girl, two parts Notes on a Scandal. . .will play with your expectations about who’s the villain and who’s the victim.” — Jennifer Weiner, USA Today
The acclaimed, bestselling author of This Could Hurt returns with her biggest, boldest novel yet—an electrifying, twisty, and deeply emotional family drama, set on Manhattan’s glittering Upper East Side, that explores the dark side of love, the limits of loyalty, and the high cost of truth.
You 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?
Lightning-paced and psychologically astute as it rockets toward an explosive ending, When We Were Bright and Beautiful is a dazzling novel that asks: who will pay the price when the truth is revealed?
Praise for When We Were Bright and Beautiful: A Novel
"A haunting drama about the #MeToo era and the lies we believe in order to survive." — People
“If you’re looking for story that takes on elements of the #MeToo movement, Jillian Medoff’s When We Were Bright and Beautiful is two parts Gone Girl, two parts Notes on a Scandal, and will play with your expectations about who’s the villain and who’s the victim.”
— Jennifer Weiner, USA Today
“A gifted novelist turns to an explosive topic—sexual assault—and the disquieting stories that leap to life from our darkest corners…Medoff writes with a soothsayer’s eye and a taut, alluring prose which winds inexorably to courtroom revelations and a shocking, shattering climax.”
— Hamilton Cain, Oprah Daily
"Jillian Medoff's captivating, keenly observed new novel gives the well trafficked Trouble on the Upper East Side story a much needed jolt." — Town and Country, "The Best Books to Read This August"
“You are going to be thrilled with When We Were Bright and Beautiful. This novel begs to be a book club selection because you are going to need to discuss these characters, the choices they make and the trouble we can get into making assumptions about what we think we know about the world of wealth and privilege.” — The Ethel, "Best Summer Books for your Balcony or Vacation"
“A fast-paced drama. . . . a book for these endlessly turbulent times and a comet force of a story that will satisfy our lust for surprises and plot twists. The shadows unveiled will stay with us long after the remarkable conclusion.” — BookReporter
“I read When We Were Bright And Beautiful in a few big gulps; deftly and beautifully written, it’s a fantastic page-turner with a shocking twist.” — Kate Christensen, award-winning author of The Last Cruise and The Great Man
“Jillian Medoff has written a hell of a book, one bound to captivate readers and ignite conversations.” — Grant Ginder, author of Let’s Not Do That Again and The People We Hate at the Wedding
"Like a magician pulling scarves from a sleeve. . . . Medoff’s greatest feat in this novel is not the twisty plotting but rather Cassie’s evolving relationship with the reader, with storytelling itself, as she moves from suspiciously naïve to clearly unreliable. . . . A layered and compelling peek into the darkest consequences of privilege." — Kirkus Reviews
"Both satisfying and heartbreaking." — Publishers Weekly
“Explores the complexities of teenage girls’ sexuality and agency. . . . Medoff’s clear sense of Cassie’s voice carries the novel throughout.” — Booklist
“Jillian Medoff's latest novel is an intricately crafted page turner with characters so flawed and fascinating, there's absolutely no looking away from them. Smart, challenging, and deeply unsettling, WHEN WE WERE BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL will test your assumptions about guilt and innocence, and subvert your expectations until the very end.” — Jung Yun, author of Shelter and O Beautiful
“When We Were Bright and Beautiful blew me away. Jillian Medoff’s gripping exploration of wealth, consent, and complicity tells the story of a loving family’s unraveling with the propulsive pace of the best thrillers. A masterful achievement.” — Aimee Molloy, New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Mother and Goodnight Beautiful
"When We Were Bright and Beautiful is a beautifully written and expertly paced examination of a privileged defendant and his family in the wake of a sexual assault allegation. Narrated by the defendant's sister Cassie, whose sharp voice is equal parts incisive and naive, the story covers much ground in American rape culture. Jillian Medoff's latest offers plenty for discussion and is perfect for book clubs." — Caitlin Wahrer, author of The Damage
"This transfixing slow burn of a novel kept me up hours past my bedtime, bewitched by Medoff's ingenious storytelling, gorgeous prose, and complicated, fascinating characters. I loved it." — Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year and A Fortunate Age
“This is Jillian Medoff’s best—deepest, wisest, most complex—work. Medoff dares to touch third rails in this novel, and doesn’t flinch when the sparks fly.” — Darin Strauss, award-winning author of The Queen of Tuesday
Praise for Jillian Medoff: “As smart as Medoff’s critique of corporate inanity is, it’s tempered by compassion for these people, who are ultimately tender with each other, too. . . . Through the subterranean strata of this failing office run alliances and feuds, love affairs and betrayals that influence raises, promotions and dismissals. And when Rosa herself gets in trouble, how far will her beloved staff go to protect her from the rigid mechanics of the corporation? The answer to that question becomes the story’s central problem, its funniest routine and its most moving element.” — Ron Charles in the Washington Post on This Could Hurt
“A smart, sympathetic dramedy. . . . It’s like a New York novelization of The Office—with less winky, fourth wall-breaking satire and more heart.” — Entertainment Weekly on This Could Hurt
“This bighearted dramedy of manners stars Rosa, one of the most intriguing characters ever to walk the halls of an HR department, and her supporting cast of flawed but devoted employees, who set aside their differences to rescue their leader—for once, the one who needs help.” — O, the Oprah Magazine on This Could Hurt
“An incredibly funny, incredibly human book. . . . the best book I’ve ever read about what work means, about how to do it better, about how to manage people, about how to be a good colleague, about the intra-personal relationships of an office. . . . I haven’t read something with as much pleasure in six months.” — Slate on This Could Hurt
“A refreshingly authentic portrait of corporate America and the varied souls that dream, conspire, flounder and triumph there, and this she does with a great deal of affection and charm. A very enjoyable book.” — Joshua Ferris on This Could Hurt
“Four stars. Dazzling . . . hilarious and heart-wrenching.” — People on I Couldn’t Love You More