2017 · commercial fiction · crime · fiction · Michael Joseph · psychological thrillers

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

Good me bad me

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…

15-year-old Milly is not your average teenage girl with a normal upbringing. Quite far front it. Having spent her childhood living with her abusive mother – both abusive to her and other people’s children, Milly – formerly known as Annie, is sent into foster care and awaits her mother’s trial.

This is an intensely gripping book. The starting point: Milly’s mother abducting, abusing and eventually killing innocent children from a refuge centre where she works, allows us to understand or at least get a glimpse into the psychological state of Milly and how she has internalised the abuse, which is often seen through her trauma coming back to haunt her. The plot centres around Milly, though Milly’s narrative voice is constantly addressing her imprisoned mother. The push and pull of what’s right and wrong is at the forefront as Milly fights with her thoughts and tries to do the right thing, despite being the daughter of a psychopathic killer.

When Milly is taken in by her foster parents: Mike and Saskia (until the lead up to her mother’s trial) we see Milly struggle with bullying at school, experience her self-harm herself as a way of releasing intense emotional pain, and of course, follow her throughout this mental journey to the lead up, during and after her mother’s trial. Milly longs for acceptance and a normal life and it’s easy to sympathise with her. But Milly isn’t a complete angel herself – she’s made mistakes, which become exposed as the plot unravels. But for a unreliable narrator, it is clear that she’s a deeply disturbed by her mother’s abusive behaviour and as a reader, it’s disturbing to see a teenager normalise some of these destructive behaviour traits.

The book reminded me that the roles of parents in being good role models is absolutely vital in order for children to grow up to be mentally stable members of society. I’m sure there are many children in similar situations to Milly who are suffering due to a destructive upbringing. I salute Ali Land for writing about mental health and psychological trauma in young people in such an elegant and honest manner.

Towards the closing of the novel, Milly’s actions do surprise me and also makes me fear her swell as do some of the characters but it does go to show that destruction from a very young age, where that is abuse: sexually, mentally and/ or seat, can be dangerously normalised. Milly knows what she is doing is wrong but couldn’t help herself ┬ábecause that’s all she’s seen from her mother. ┬áThe opening and closing lines of the book were poignant and all that is in-between will keep you hooked as it did me. Would recommend, but not for the faint-hearted.

Good Me Bad Me was published by Michael Joseph in August 2017.

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