Book: Good Me, Bad Me
Author: Ali Land
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Good Me, Bad Me: Moving on from your past isn’t an easy task
Have you ever wondered what happens to the children of serial killers? Ali Land’s debut novel set in London tackles this question.
Fifteen-year-old Annie has had enough. She decides that she can’t let her mother get away with what she is doing any longer. So, she turns her mother in.
Annie, now Milly, is sent to live with foster parents, Mike and Saskia, and their daughter, Phoebe. No one knows who she really is except for her foster parents and school principal. She wants it to stay that way. If she is found out, then Milly won’t be happy.
Phoebe, sick of Mike and Saskia taking in “strays”, makes it her mission to make Milly’s life hell. But her life is already hell and they don’t know who they’re messing with. Phoebe constantly cries out for attention from her parents regularly sitting on the third-floor banister to get a reaction.
“Don’t be so stupid, come down from there, it’ll be the death of you”, her father’s warning.
Milly struggles constantly with inner thoughts of good versus bad and just as we begin to understand and sympathise with Milly and her kind ways her inner bad side comes out. Milly thinks that death is a kindness to some and these thoughts play with her and us.
Not only must Milly battle within her mind about herself but she also faces the task of appearing as a witness at her mother’s trial. The good versus bad struggle for the teenager continues.
She hates her mother for what she has done. She killed nine children. Children who trusted her.
Parents trusted this woman who promised to find a safer home for their children at her local refuge. She made Annie live with that too. Now, as Milly, she is still tormented by her past.
But she is still Milly’s mum.
Away from her mother in body but not in mind she faces nightmarish visits from a serpent, her mother, which attacks her mentally.
Good Me Bad Me drags the reader into Milly’s mind through the stream of consciousness. And Milly’s mind is not somewhere you want to be.
It is difficult to fully love the character of Milly but difficult to fully hate her either leaving you in this limbo of “do I care or do I wish she’d go away?”
Milly seems merely mischievous at first but we quickly realise that there’s a more sinister nature to this troubled teen.
While not a lovable character you do feel pity for her. She’s just a bit damaged. Who wouldn’t be, right? She can be fixed with help from a loving family and environment…right?
The “serial killer” genre is a fascinating one but Ali Land goes that step further by telling it from Milly’s perspective. There’s no blood and guts -sorry guys- the nasty parts are left to the imagination.
And sometimes your imagination can be your worst enemy.
Something about this book makes you think you know exactly how it’s going to end but forces your mind to change 100 times from start to finish.
There is a lot to this book, and while it does lag a bit in the middle, the story isn’t ruined. It adds realism to the book as someone in her position is likely to face many obstacles.
The schoolyard bullying. The perfect-looking family unraveling at the seams. The need to belong to something. If these issues were ignored with the focus solely on Milly and the trial then this book wouldn’t be as captivating.
Lord of the Flies plays a vital role in the novel as Year 11’s work on the play for school. The girls at Whetherbridge School are not so subtly compared with the characters and it’s an apt comparison as the girls nail the mob mentality and cruelty that can come out of the seemingly innocent.
Ali Land graduated with a degree in mental health and spent a decade working as a child and adolescent mental health nurse giving her novel authenticity in the subject at hand.
It’s hard to believe that this is Ali Land’s first novel as she’s clearly at ease in her new role as author. I think there is more to come from Ali Land and it will be exciting to see what she brings next.
A disturbing read but it should be on your list for this year.
Good Me Bad Me keeps you hoping that this girl can be helped and live happily ever after. But those thoughts of hers ruin everything…