Book review – Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

Every now and then you come across a book which, when you begin reading, becomes your life. From the moment I read the first sentence, which happens to be a question, I was completely absorbed, and went on to speed through its 338 pages in double-quick time.

One of the standout releases of 2017, I was enticed by the general concept of Good Me Bad Me and its sheer volume of positive reviews, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. This is another novel I’d recommend to anyone who likes a hard-hitting psychological thriller.

What’s it about?

Annie’s mother is a serial child killer. To make it stop, Annie handed her in to the police, and she is now awaiting trial for nine murders.

After being given a new name – Milly – she moves in with an affluent foster family, aiming for a fresh start in life while preparing to give evidence at her mother’s trial.

Milly undergoes a powerful and challenging emotional journey as she battles with the horrific secrets of her past and struggles to break free of her mother’s villainy and manipulation.

Beset by internal struggles at the same time as harbouring a desire to break free of her mother’s psychological grip, Milly develops complex relationships with all of those around her, and is met with a mixture of warmth, sympathy, and suspicion.

Themes

This book goes very deep, as we uncover the most intricate workings of Milly’s mind and the level to which she has suffered from – and been influenced by – the psychological and emotional abuse of her mother. This is the overarching theme of the book, and Land handles this with an expert touch to create an eloquent depiction.

There are descriptions of cold-blooded kidnap and death, but not overly detailed. We also experience tales of grief, bullying (both verbal and cyber), and sexual assault, all of which are touched upon with striking realism.

What makes it a must-read?

Land clearly has a talent for creating memorable and well-developed characters, and an understanding of the issues and concepts which make up their rather tragic story.

The character of Milly is so complex, and although she is the narrator, you’re never quite sure at any point in the book whether she is incurably like her mother, if she really wants to break free of her demons and start anew, or has inherited her mother’s ruthlessness and is willing to do absolutely anything in order to benefit herself. To do that takes a wonderful level of storytelling.

The accurate depiction of real-life scenes, in various settings such as the school, the courtroom, hospital, and psychological sessions. These really shine through, as they all add to the intrigue over where and how the book will end.

The Ending

This sounds like a contradiction, but the ending to Good Me Bad Me is a little predictable, yet quite unexpected, as it reveals the truth about Milly and her actions, but leaves several unanswered questions about her future.

All the same, it is extremely tragic, especially when you’ve come to care for Milly over the course of the novel, despite all her problems. It is the only part of the book I would have changed to make it more justifiable, though perhaps only for sentimental reasons.

The Author

This was Ali Land’s debut novel, and a lot of the content weighs heavily on her former career as a mental health nurse. She has witnessed and experienced remarkable and heartbreaking personal trials first-hand, and her knowledge really helps to make Good Me Bad Me the story that it is.

Verdict

Good Me Bad Me is not for the faint-hearted, but it delivers a captivating and thought-provoking plot which will take you on an unpredictable emotional journey. The characters are rich and detail and depth, but its the unending questions about the psyche of Milly and her ultimate fate, where it leaves the greatest impact.

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