Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

Rating : 4/5

Date of Publication : January 12th 2017

Publisher – Penguin Books Ltd

Genre – Psychological Thriller

“Milly’s mother is a serial killer” – the blurb states in the most matter-of-fact way. This should give the readers a forewarning that that the novel is not an everyday story. However, “not an everyday story” is an understatement too! Through Good Me Bad Me, Ali Land takes us on a journey exploring the complicated psychology of an abused child. What awaits in this path is a disturbing and hair chilling story that made me uncomfortable to the core.  The book does not have many gruesome details listed out explicitly like many of the horror books, yet Ali Land has managed to completely freak out the readers through her narration. The novel exceeds expectations, especially for a debut work, with not just the writing but also the premise which is both complicated and fascinating, but handled with great insight. I read in one of Ali Land’s interview that the very idea of the protagonist came from her years of experience as a children’s mental health nurse. Her minimalistic style of writing combined with the strength of her experiences has transformed this book from being remarkable to truly unforgettable!!

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Milly is a teenager starting her life afresh in a London foster home after she reported the activities of her mother to the police. One would ask as to what exactly were these activities. She is a serial killer who has killed nine young kids and has both physically and mentally abused Milly throughout her life. However, Milly is looking forward to her new shiny life with the family of her psychologist Mike, his wife, Saskia, and their teenage daughter Phoebe who is of the same age as Millie. More pressure is added on Millie with her being bullied at school helmed by none other than Phoebe, an upcoming trial of her mother where she is to testify and the constant voices she hears in her head forcing her to decide whether she would be good or bad.

Narrated from Milly’s perspective and written in the form of her inner ramblings, the story is a psychological study on a child raised by a serial killer mother who abuses her position of trust. Through her narrative style, the author has succeeded in laying bare the innermost thoughts and fears of Milly pulling the readers closer to this desolate protagonist. It is never easy for readers to identify with such a complex protagonist whose moral compass is all over the place, let alone sympathize with her plight. This is where Ali Land has succeeded in her storytelling prowess. The readers are compelled to like Milly with all her flaws and struggle even while being shocked at some of her responses. The character formation of Milly is also inspired. Milly comes alive in the pages with a complicated personality that is difficult for the readers to predict. The struggles between good and evil deep within Milly is very cleverly portrayed and they slowly surface to become a part of her reactions. The influence of her mother is clearly strong in the protagonist and the author makes the readers wonder if she can ever break free.

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Ali Land (Courtesy : Penguin Books UK)

The other characters in the novel, namely, Mike and his family, have also been portrayed well. I admit that Phoebe is a bit stereotyped as a moody and rebellious teenager with an excessive love for pink! However, the author has given us an insight into the mind of Phoebe to remind us that she is after all a teenage girl vying for her parent’s attention. The plot is indeed novel and Ali Land’s use of small snippets to give us a peek into the horrors experienced by Milly is brilliant. Without going into any detailed description and with few key scenes interspersed between the main narratives, the readers are made to imagine the horrible deeds done by Milly’s mother. These sudden trips into the past creates more unrest among readers than any macabre detailing ever will. Even though the narrative is fast paced, it slows down towards the end and I found my interest wandering off in the final stage. The novel concluded in a predictable format with a very normal ending.

Overall, a great debut by Ali Land who has tackled a very complex issue and has done perfect justice to it! A dark psychological thriller that will drown you in its pages. This novel is a must read for all who enjoy complex psychological fiction. Get your copy today and be ready to be manipulated!

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 both hospitals and schools in the UK and Australia. Ali is now a full-time writer and lives in West London.

Follow Ali on Twitter @byAliLand

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