'Good Me, Bad Me', By Ali Land: Book Review

4 out of 5 stars

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Milly is starting a new life with her foster family. She desperately wants to fit in with them and have a permanent home somewhere she can feel safe. You see, Milly is really Annie. And Annie’s mother is a serial killer.

As her mother’s trial approaches, Milly has to try to come to terms with all of the horrors she saw in her house, and with the fact that it was she who turned her mother into the police.

But her mother is always in her head, permeating even her dreams, validating Milly’s fears that she can never be rid of her, and raising the question of whether she is destined to be her mother’s daughter in more than just birth.

In Good Me, Bad Me, Ali Land manages to explore the nature vs nurture debate from a new perspective. It’s not often that a female serial killer is written about in fiction, and seeing it through the eyes of her daughter makes it all the more harrowing. The question of whether Milly is able to shut out her mother’s voice and live a normal life, or if she is inherently bad because of her mother’s influence, is always at the forefront of the story.

The subject matter is definitely dark, and I know that’s put a lot of people off reading it, but don’t let it. Land deals with everything perfectly, going just dark enough to make you feel a little uncomfortable, but never so much so that you don’t want to read on. I found it similar to Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places in that sense (if you haven’t read that, go do it now, trust me. Although make sure not to eat anything while reading it, there’s a bit with a cow that will make your stomach turn). Both books leave you with a sense of unease but curiosity at what’s going to happen next. I love these kinds of books; they fascinate me and terrify me all at the same time.

Good Me, Bad Me is an unusual story in that it’s difficult to know where it's actually going. I found it difficult to explain the plot to people as I was reading it. You can only really explain the set-up, with Milly telling the police about her mother and moving in with her foster family. It’s not a book that a lot happens in after that. You know you’re going to get to the mother’s trial at some point, but that’s about it. It’s a story that focuses more on the character of Milly than the actual plot, on how her mind works and the way she sees the world after going through what she has. She is bullied at school, mostly by the daughter of her foster parents, and she has to figure out ways to deal with that. A lot of the time you just want to give her a hug and tell her it’s going to be okay. Other times you want to back away slowly, not making any sudden movements.

This isn’t to say that it’s not a gripping story. It most definitely is (a friend of mine read it in 9 hours straight because she couldn’t put it down). It’s not always edge-of-your-seat gripping, but you’ll definitely want to read on. And the ending comes at you like a car coming around a corner, that you can hear in the distance but you can’t see yet, so you cross the road anyway because you think you have time, then BAAAMMM, you’re hit and you never recover.

So basically, read Good Me, Bad Me. I promise you it’s time well spent, and you’ll get to join the rest of us in counting down the days until Ali Land writes her next one.