"It is night. They move with such stealth they could be almost floating along the road. I can't see faces, just the outline of their movement. But when the moon drifts out from behind a cloud, bathing the road in an urgent sort of light, I see how they're all gazing up towards me. 'They're coming back,' I murmur. I turn to Kendall, and she puts her sewing aside, eyes on me. They never waiver." It was supposed to be a place where teenagers would learn resilience, confidence and independence, where long hikes and runs in the bush would make their bodies strong and foster a connection with the natural world. Living in bare wooden huts, cut off from the outside world, the students would experience a very different kind of schooling, one intended to have a strong influence over the kind of adults they would eventually become. Fourteen-year-old Rebecca Starford spent a year at this school in the bush. In her boarding house sixteen girls were left largely unsupervised, a combination of the worst behaved students and some of the most socially vulnerable. As everyone tried to fit in and cope with their feelings of isolation and homesickness, Rebecca found herself joining ranks with the powerful girls, becoming both a participant - and later a victim - of various forms of bullying and aggression. Bad Behaviour tells the story of that year, a time of friendship and joy, but also of shame and fear. It explores how those crucial experiences affected Rebecca as an adult and shaped her future relationships, and asks courageous questions about the nature of female friendship. Moving, wise and painfully honest, this extraordinary memoir shows how bad behaviour from childhood, in all its forms, can be so often and so easily repeated throughout our adult lives.
Rebecca Starford is the co-founder and publishing-director of Kill Your Darlings and an editor at Text Publishing. She has written for Guardian, Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Australian newspapers. She was a founding member of the Stella Prize steering committee. Bad Behaviour is her first book. Rebecca lives in Melbourne.