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The Worst Bad Thing by J.E. Birk

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It’s finally happened! The Worst Bad Thing, a novella that I’ve been working on for quite some time, was released yesterday. This book was a hard one to write, and it forced me to explore a topic I think all humans struggle with.


Guilt is such a strange thing. At times it drives us to greatness; at other times it drives us to disaster. It destroyed Lady Macbeth’s entire existence, yet some politicians seem entirely unaware of its existence. No wonder writers do much work exploring this heavy concept.

The Worst Bad Thing is the story of Tate O’Reilly. Tate is involved in a horrible tragedy, and when we first meet him he is grappling with an incredible amount of guilt. He has no idea what do with this guilt or how to respond to it; it’s become crippling for him.  Below is an excerpt from the story where Tate is attempting to explain his state of being to his best friend Davis.

“Tate, you can’t just sit in this house forever.”

“Can’t I?” I ran a hand through my greasy hair and tried to remember the last time I’d showered. Had it even been that week? Working up the energy to turn on water in a shower and stand under it…. I was exhausted just thinking about it.

“Tate.” Davis sank down onto the couch next to me. “Have you been like this since the accident?”

“It was only two weeks ago, Davis. And stop calling it an accident. It wasn’t an accident. It was my fault.”

“Oh. So you went to work that day, fully intending to start a fire in your chemistry lab?” Davis crossed his arms and shook his head.

“You know what I mean.”

“Honestly, sweetie, I have no idea what you mean most of the time these days. You’ve basically locked yourself up in this hole of an apartment. You’ve stopped eating, and even though you seem to spend most of your time lying down, I don’t actually think you’re sleeping. You’ve been telling me during phone call after phone call that you’re perfectly fine, and then I fly out to Colorado and find you like this?”

“You didn’t need to come, Davis. I told you not to come.”

“Shit, Tate. I hopped a plane as soon as I could.” He stood up again and walked the short distance from the living room couch to the kitchen fridge and stopped to pull off the large, pink Post-it note hanging there. “I’m calling this therapist the union recommended.”

My head shot up. “Please don’t. I don’t… I don’t need a therapist.”

“Clearly you need someone, darling, and I’m not cutting it. And if these people had the foresight to recommend someone for you to see, you should probably get on that. Maybe it will help with getting you reinstated.”

My job was the last thing I wanted to discuss. “The union didn’t give me that name because they think it might help me get my job back, Davis. This whole ‘administrative leave’ thing is a formality. They gave it to me because they’re decent people.”

“Then let’s not let their good work go to waste, shall we? And if you’re really certain that this investigation is going to end in your dismissal, then you should probably call that lawyer back, sweetie. And we should maybe find a job for you… at least part-time.”

“I deserve to be fired.” I lay down across the couch and pulled a blanket over my head. “It doesn’t matter if I call the lawyer back or not, Davis. Don’t you get that? None of this matters. Those families need any money they can get out of me. Well, the insurance policies, anyway. I don’t have nearly enough to offer them. And I’m never going to teach again, Davis. Don’t you get that? My career is over. And I deserve to have my ass sued and arrested. So why the fuck does it matter if I call that lawyer back? Or my therapist?”

And so it goes. Tate’s guilt consumes him…until he meets Gabriel Carillo, when everything in his world changes.

Did I come to any lasting conclusions about guilt while I was writing this book? Yes and no. Guilt will always be a complicated emotion for human beings, and I think we writers will continue to explore its place in humanity until the end of time.

Thanks so much for joining me to celebrate the release of this book. I hope you enjoy getting to know Tate and Gabriel!


Blurb for The Worst Bad Thing  By J.E. Birk

Iceland, Stonehenge, London, Paris….

To the casual observer, it looks like a dream trip. For Tate O’Reilly, it’s anything but. He’s a man on a mission to rectify a critical mistake, and there’s nothing to hold him back—certainly not friends or family. For Tate, it all comes down to one simple thing—he must fix what he has broken.

What he doesn’t count on is meeting Gabriel Carillo. Gabriel is kind, mysterious, and seems to be on his own mission to ensure their paths keep crossing. But Tate’s hiding an awfully big secret—one he’s certain even Gabriel can’t forgive.

Does a man’s past have to determine his future? In the middle of cities filled with history, Tate is going to find out.

Buy links for The Worst Bad Thing



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Review by Janice Birnie

The Worst Bad thing by J.E.Birk is one of those incredibly moving books that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it. It is a beautiful novella about mistakes we can make when we’re young and idealistic. Mistakes that can have devastating consequences. Mistakes that seem impossible to overcome. Where forgiving yourself can be even harder than being forgiven.

Tate O’Reilly is a newly minted AP chemistry teacher, living in Denver, Colorado. He adores his job and his students adore him. He loves imparting his passion for science to his students, and what better way to do that than an exciting science experiment in class. When something goes horribly wrong, and his experiment literally blows up in his face, Tate is left dealing with crippling guilt and the shattered lives of everyone who was present that day. Now working as a barista, Tate saves all his money to take a trip to England and Paris. He will follow one person’s dreams and travel plans for the future and in doing so finally hope to atone for his mistakes.

Gabriel Carillo is on a mission of his own. Traveling from Denver to London via Reykjavik, Iceland, he has an important job to do. He likes to stop over here on his trips to Europe to visit the mystical Blue Lagoon and relax. Meeting the eyes of a gorgeous, slightly sad, young man on his way there, Gabriel is more than happy to strike up a conversation and see where it leads.

When Tate sees a beautiful young man on his bus to the Blue Lagoon, the last thing he is looking for is to make a connection. Gabriel is persistent however and soon they are talking and enjoying each others company. When they reach London, Gabriel makes sure to give Tate his phone number. He has time outside of the job he’s come to complete and suggests they meet up for some sight seeing. Each man is keeping something from the other but in Tate’s eyes there can be nothing worse than his “worst bad thing.”

Sightseeing seems like a fun way to spend some time together, but when Tate has a panic attack he is terrified Gabriel will learn his darkest secrets. Gabriel has done some research about his enigmatic new friend, however, and tells Tate he knows about what happened in that Denver classroom so many months ago. He also tells Tate his own worst bad thing. There are still secrets between them, however, and finding out all that they each keep inside will take time, patience and the intervention of a friend.

The Worst Bad Thing is a compelling, heart-wrenching novella. It is also a beautifully told story about two young men struggling with their pasts and unsure of their futures. Finding out if they can help each other heal, and find a path to a future together, will keep you glued to this book till the final page. It left me thinking about the choices we make in life, particularly when we are young adults, how those choices impact on the rest of our lives, and how forgiving yourself can be the most difficult task of all.

There isn’t a false note in The Worst Bad Thing. I read it in one sitting and can’t recommend it highly enough!! I look forward to reading more from this author.

Rating: 5 Stars

J.E. Birk has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them since she was introduced to the alphabet. She hails from Colorado, where you can usually find her skiing, training for a 5K she won’t end up running, or watching grown men run into each other on football fields and in hockey rinks. You can follow her ramblings on Twitter by looking for @jebirkwrites. She’s also been known to ramble on Facebook as J Elisabeth Birk.


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