BLURB: How far does the apple really fall from the tree?
Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.
But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.
When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter – Goodreads
Author: Ali Land Publisher: Penguin Books Genre: Psychological fiction
[My Review]: ♥♥♥♥
“Guns held in praying hands, flat against their chests. The thrill of the search, along with the terror of the truth, etched in equal measure on their faces.”
― Ali Land,
Have you ever heard of Ali Land? Other than sharing the last name of my significant other, I’d never read a single book by her nor knew she existed at all. In a single read of her January release, Good Me Bad Me, I learned all I needed to know: Land’s writing is downright addictive.
“Your contact hurt, but the absence of contact hurts more.” – Ali Land, Good Me, Bad Me
The narration is told through the eyes of 15-year-old Milly, and presents as a stream of consciousness that flows from Milly herself and dialogue that grounds the reader back into a traditional story telling. This was, in my opinion, brilliantly done and consistent. It also revealed the inconsistencies in Milly, making her an unreliable narrator you weren’t sure if you should cheer on or be wary of.
In Good Me Bad Me, you meet two versions of her protagonist: Annie, the daughter a serial-killing nurse who preyed on children and Milly, the girl in foster care who struggles to appear normal despite the sense that she’s rotten to the core. Although Milly and Annie are the same person, the battle between her desire to do what’s right against her darkest nature make her feel as if she’s two separate people.
A wave. Raw. Sadness washes over me as I’m dismissed. I don’t move, I look at the screen. I want to run to you, crawl up inside you back into your womb. Rewrite a history where this time you’d love me normally. Shiny and new.”
― Ali Land,
Good Me Bad Me threw me into London, England, where Milly lives with a foster family who is less than perfect. Her therapist and foster father, Mike, seems oblivious to her struggles (it’s also unusual for him to be both her caretaker and shrink), her foster mother is a benzo popping interior designer sleeping with her yoga instructor, and the foster sister is a snobby brat who hates taking in strays.
In my opinion, these characters were a too flat and cliche. Besides Milly, I found it difficult to care or connect with the family at all, who seemed to inhabit their own little worlds. This aside, the stereotypical portrayal of her temporary family was one of my least favorite parts of Good Me Bad Me.
As Milly reflects on what she’s done to her mother – and the hint of a secret threatens exposure – she slowly allows the poison of her experiences to taint her. I won’t reveal the exact details, but it was enough that you as the reader begin to dread what might happen next.
I began asking: Who is Milly? Because at a certain point, I felt I no longer knew. And Land’s style of writing flowed beautifully from the page, a collection of thoughts trapped within a girl who must testify at her mother’s trial and learn to fit into a world of normal people when she has never known normal a day in her life.
Good Me Bad Me is an examination of nature shaped by nurture, placing mental health at the heart of its story.
“I should feel lucky, but I’m afraid. Fear of finding out who I am and what I could be. And I’m afraid that they too will find out. ” – Ali Land, Good Me, Bad Me
I couldn’t put this book down. From the very first line to the lingering last word, I was absorbed by Milly’s struggle, the horrors of her experiences, and baited by the unreliability of her character. Ali Land, who was once a mental health nurse, seamlessly weaved Milly into a person I could relate to and feel compassion for, while wondering if she could ever fully be trusted.
In a way, Land made me question whether human beings tainted by a dark past are destined to repeat, and I reflected on what’s considered “good” or “bad”. The tension of the book was palpable, an erratic heartbeat almost louder than the dialogue itself, but there was also a sense of dread, as if Milly was heading for a train wreck – and nobody could stop it.
Though I won’t spoil the end for you, I will close this review with a quote from Milly herself:
The brain of a psychopath is different from most, I’ve weighed up my chances. Eighty per cent genetics, twenty per cent environment. Me. One hundred per cent fucked.” ― Ali Land,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
After graduating from university with a degree in mental health, Ali Land spent a decade working as a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Nurse in hospitals and schools in the UK and Australia. Ali is now a full-time writer and lives in London. Good Me Bad Me has been translated into over twenty languages.
Follow Ali @ByAliLand