Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all well. I’m so thrilled to be sharing my review for my first 5 star book of the year 2018 with you… Ali Land’s ‘Good Me Bad Me’! This book is an exceptional read and so hard for me to fault. Keep reading to discover my thoughts…
When Annie hands her mother over to the police she hopes for a new start in life – but can we ever escape our past?
‘NEW NAME. NEW FAMILY. SHINY. NEW. ME.’
Annie’s mother is a serial killer. The only way Annie can make it stop is to hand her in to the police.
With a new foster family and a new name – Milly – she hopes for a fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be. But as her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of Milly’s past won’t let her sleep . . .
Because Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water…
** TRIGGER WARNING ** Contains descriptions of emotional, sexual and physical abuse, including child torment and murder. Also makes references to mental illness, including graphic scenes of self-harm and suicide.
‘Good Me Bad Me’ is Ali Land’s debut novel and was published on 12th January 2017. It was a Sunday Times Bestseller and also was the Richard & Judy Book Club Thriller of 2017. It was also awarded Heat‘s Best Book of the Year and one of The Telegraph‘s Crime Books of the Year. Ali Land has a degree in Mental Health and has spent over a decade working as a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Nurse in various hospitals and schools, before turning to writing as a full-time profession.
The novel has received much positive praise. Cosmopolitan labelled it “the new Girl on the Train, which was the new Gone Girl. You get the picture”, and the Sunday Express said it “could not be more unputdownable if it was slathered with superglue”. Many fellow authors also praised the book, such as Matt Haig: “An astoundingly compelling thriller”, Clare Mackintosh: “Original and compelling – what a sensational debut” and Julia Heaberlin: “Good Me Bad Me is not just a terrific thriller but a psychological dive into a young girl’s soul”.
‘Good Me Bad Me’ is an exceptional Psychological Thriller all about what happens when your mother is a serial killer. Annie/Milly attempts to start afresh and begin a new life for herself after handing her mother into the police, but it soon becomes clear that the past will not let her go. As the date for her mother’s trial looms, the demons of her past only tighten their grip…
The narrative is told in Milly’s first person account, providing the reader with an intense insight to her thoughts and feelings. The reader is able to feel her anxiety and experience her pain, as she attempts to overcome the hardships of her past. The narrative also contains flashbacks to Milly’s past – short snippets of information which gradually increase, until the reader knows everything about what happened to her.
Of course, Milly is my favourite character in the novel. She has experienced a world full of pain and suffering, and all she wants is to be free of her past, and most importantly, her mother. As a 15 year old girl, she must learn to adjust to a new foster family, a new school and all the challenges that come with that – as well as preparing to take the stand and testify against her own mother. She’s a kind-hearted, lovely girl, and it broke my heart to read all the hardships she experiences. I wished that I could just hug her and tell her that everything would be okay in the end! But as the book goes on, the reader begins to see another side to her character, one that I never could have predicted. She’s an extremely complex and well-written character.
Milly’s foster family are not very likeable characters in my opinion. Her foster father Mike, who works as a psychologist, prioritises his work and studies of Milly over her care, often leaving her isolated and alone. He loves his family, but it’s clear he has a few issues of his own. Milly’s foster mother Saskia has had some health issues in the past, and this prevents her from bonding properly with her daughters. She seems particularly self-centered to me, opting to spend time at yoga classes instead of with her family. Milly’s foster sister Phoebe is a nasty bully who repeatedly taunts and ridicules Milly – verbally, emotionally and physically. I really hated Phoebe, and often wished that Milly would confide in someone about her torment.
Other minor characters in the novel include: Milly’s mother (who we learn about through Milly’s narration and during the trial), Milly’s new friend Morgan (a kind but troubled young girl), Phoebe’s other friends (horrible bullies just like Phoebe), Miss Kemp (Milly’s teacher who she takes a particular liking to), and various other adults who care for Milly during the trial experience.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** (I apologise for any spoilers here.) The novel contains descriptions of emotional, sexual and physical abuse, committed by Milly’s mother towards Milly, her brother, and her other child victims. The novel describes many scenes of child abduction, torment and murder, which some readers may find particularly distressing. It also details abuse committed by Phoebe and her friends towards Milly. Mental illness is a big theme in the novel, as the reader is given a detailed insight to Milly’s thoughts and feelings, detailing some complex, trauma-related mental illnesses. There are many scenes which detail graphic actions of self-harm, particularly body cutting. The novel also details a scene of attempted suicide by medication overdose. Land approaches these issues expertly and with appropriate sensitivity (she worked as a Mental Health Nurse for over a decade, and this really shows in her writing), but if these issues are likely to trigger a negative response, I suggest you skip this book.
As the novel motors onwards, Milly’s mother’s trial date grows closer and she must ensure she is prepared to testify against her. Mike attempts to help her work through her emotions, but the negative memories and feelings only intensify. Phoebe’s bullying of Milly also increases, and she pushes Milly to her breaking point. Will Milly be strong enough to beat her mother, or will her mother’s hold over her always win?
So, let’s talk about the ending. There’s a dramatic end scene in which Milly must decide what’s more important to her – her new family, or her old one. She makes her choice and her true colours are revealed to the reader, with devastating consequences. The twist is absolutely astounding, and I definitely didn’t see that coming. My eyes were glued to the page, and I was so shocked! A fantastic ending, in which the title ‘Good Me Bad Me’ really comes into play.
Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy Psychological Thrillers, particularly those featuring horrific crimes and murder. Personally, I cannot fault this novel and I’d give it a solid 5 stars, and it’s going straight on my “favourites” bookshelf. I felt so many emotions whilst reading this, and it provoked some important questions in my mind. Apart from some scenes being extremely uncomfortable to read, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was gripped from start to finish. A remarkable read!
Happy reading 🙂