When We Were Bright and Beautiful

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.

Reviews & Praise

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 is a beautifully written and expertly paced examination of a privileged defendant and his family in the wake of an 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 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

Jillian Medoff has written a hell of a book, one that’s bound to captivate readers and ignite conversations. 

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

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, NY Times bestselling author of THE PERFECT MOTHER and GOODNIGHT BEAUTIFUL

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 


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?