Readers have had such varied responses to Bethany. Some people think she’s evil, maybe even more so than Celia. I like to think that she’s trying…it’s just hard to change!
So, who’s she settling a score with at the end?
I left that ambiguous deliberately. Sorry. She keeps telling herself that she will be better, and committing to be better, but she can't help herself. She's only doing it to "bad" people, like the teacher or Albert, so she feels more justified in her actions – these people deserved it, after all. Her activities are now more vigilante-like than self-interested, so in a way she's changed, but she also hasn't. She gets a kick out her manipulations, but now she can tell herself that she’s aligned with justice, and she's still able to deceive
herself with 'just one more time'. I find that fascinating – the idea that we create narratives around our actions, and can really believe them. They don’t have to be huge things either, like blackmailing someone – we can tell ourselves little lies about why we had a falling out with someone, or why a relationship broke up. I also love the concept of how we remember, that each time we take a memory out, what we’re remembering is that memory the last time we took it out, not the original memory, and the way that that means memories are not as reliable as we like to think – they change over time.
I quite like Bethany. Some readers couldn’t forgive her for the rape scene, and not intervening, which is
a totally valid response. But I felt her attempts to change were coming from a good place. She wanted to help find Harrison. She wanted to be seen as she truly was, and stop hiding behind her family’s perceptions of her. She really makes an effort to stay connected to Adele at the end of the book, and I really resonate with that struggle to change, especially with her family background. It’s so easy to only notice the kind of trauma that comes from abuse, but Bethany and her sisters didn’t get some pretty basic developmental things from their parents. None of them truly felt loved and supported, and I am curious about how that chips away at a person and shapes their sense of self in those critical early years. The ways that people survive are often extraordinary. Dysfunctional as adults, but pretty amazing adaptations as children trying to survive what feels like life and death to a child – being connected to a parent.
I think Adele if further along her recovery journey than Bethany, but Bethany is on the right track. I think she’ll make it…just with a few criminal deviations along the way!