Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land
Publication: January 12th 2017 by Penguin Books
Format: eBook Pages: 400
Annie’s mother is a serial killer. The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police.
But out of sight is not out of mind. As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly. A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be. But Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water.
Good me, bad me.
She is, after all, her mother’s daughter… – Goodreads.
I didn’t expect Good Me Bad Me to be as thrilling as it was, the pages practically turned themselves. I still can’t believe this was 400-pages long because I read it within a day and, by the end, it felt like I’d only read 200 pages.
Ali Land’s writing style was genius. The book begins with Milly narrating in the first-person, ‘Forgive me when I tell you it was me.’ The ‘you’ she’s referring to is her serial killer mother who is the recipient of the entire story. The narrative almost reads like a letter written to a parent in jail (but it’s more messed up than that); there are times when it dips far deeper into Milly’s mind, and the result is an astonishingly chilling experience for the reader. Not only did she manage to keep me glued to her prose, but the way Land decided to write her story was perfect for what her book was trying to achieve.
We’re never given clear details of exactly what Milly’s mother has done, Milly drops hints and her descriptions of events are vague. What we do know, right off the bat, is that her mother was a serial killer and Milly was the one who reported her to the police (that’s not a spoiler, by the way, the blurb gives that much away). As the story progresses, we get enough information to get a good idea of Milly’s story. However, Milly is an unreliable narrator, which means there’s a hell of a lot of surprising twists. Although gory details are retained, the narrative still manages to appal, disturb and shock. At this point, I must say that there are elements of rape, paedophilia, grooming, child abuse, domestic violence, self-harm, and suicide in Good Me, Bad Me. The entire book is written from the perspective of a child who has experienced severe trauma and it’s psychologically realistic. Please be vary of this if you believe they are topics that may be harmful to you.
You can tell Land is acquainted with mental health (well, she does have a degree in the subject), I felt like I just dropped right into Milly’s head as soon as I started reading and everything about the experience felt vivid and real. Now, that was an okay experience at first; I was prepared for a difficult read considering the blurb, but there were times when Milly’s thoughts ventured into dark and frightening areas, and some of the things she said made my blood run cold. Milly was a complex character, a fifteen-year-old daughter of a murderer, and despite that, I thought Land did a great job at making Milly’s behaviour and thoughts understandable. I got why Milly did things and thought the way she did, even if they scared the crap out of me.
‘Phoebe’s seen to that. Quickly decided not only was I someone she didn’t like, but someone that nobody else should either. Powerful, like you.’
Good Me Bad Me excels not only in bringing forward an amazing storyline and protagonist, but it also features many other characters as complex and interesting as Milly. After her mother is imprisoned, Milly is placed in a foster home. Her foster sister, Phoebe, becomes a prominent character with a whole backstory of her own, her own struggles, and the story begins to focus on the conflict between Milly and Phoebe, Milly’s home and school life, as well as everything that is going on with Milly and her mother at court. I liked that the story didn’t centre entirely on the battle between serial killer and daughter and that it included the rest of Milly’s life, like how she felt being at a new school and her interactions with her teachers and classmates.
Good Me Bad Me is being heralded by its publisher as a book that’s going to be ‘explosive’ in 2017, after reading it, I agree. This is definitely a book to watch out for, I expect to see discussion and controversy around Good Me Bad Me, and I hope Land has more books in store because she’s jumped onto my list of favourite thriller/crime writers.