Interesting characters come in all shapes and sizes: funny, relatable, charming, kind, outlandish and villainous. Kathleen West’s debut novel, Minor Drama & Other Catastrophes (Berkley), introduces us to several interesting characters in the world of high stakes education with privileged helicopter parents and ambitious teachers.

Liston Heights High School’s parents treat their children’s success like a full contact sport, and Julia Abbot is the captain. Overly invested in her son’s casting in the school musical, she loses patience waiting for the cast list to post, so she sneaks into school using the school badge she never returned. In the confusion of a packed hallway, she elbows another student in the stomach while doing a celebration dance, all of it caught on video by a student. When it goes viral online, all the adults let their worst behavior surface.

Isobel Johnson loves teaching her students how to look at classic novels from a different perspective, but the parents don’t always agree, which explains the anonymous complaints she’s been receiving.

Parents and teachers sabotage each another. West does an excellent job of writing unpleasant characters who you want to follow on their self-destructive journeys — a bit of schadenfreude to make yourself feel above the fray. In these complicated times, isn’t that exactly where you want to be? Above the mess.

Their unsavory antics keep the pages flying by, and by the end, no one is unscathed. It’s a cautionary tale given life by West’s personal experience teaching high school, then given lift with her delightful imagination.

If you enjoy your fiction with a side of bad behavior, pick up a copy of Minor Drama & Other Catastrophes and an enormous coffee to savor each nasty character.

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Kathleen West is reader, teacher, writer and semiprofessional minivan driver. Her first novel, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, was a best books pick by Real SimpleNewsweekPeople MagazineEntertainment Weekly and the New York Post. Her second novel, Are We There Yet? is due from Berkley Books in Spring 2021. She is a life-long Minnesotan and lives in Minneapolis with her family.