‘NEW N A M E .
NEW F A M I L Y.
S H I N Y.
ME . ‘
Annie’s mother is a serial killer.
The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police.
But out of sight is not out of mind.
As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly.
A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be.
But Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water.
Good me, bad me.
She is, after all, her mother’s daughter…
Good Me, Bad Me will be published on 12th January 2017.
Coffee and teacups in the middle of the table, proper cups made out of china, no polystyrene excuses. The detective at the police station where I gave my first statement said it was for safety, you can’t smash polystyrene, love. I remember thinking, no, but you could use the scalding contents.
After she reports her serial killer mother to the police Annie is placed with a new family, sent to a new school, and given a new name – Milly. As well as counting down the days to her mother’s trial, Milly has to cope with a frosty reception from her foster parents daughter Phoebe, and being targeted by bullies at school. With her mothers voice creeping into her dreams and thoughts, Milly has to try extra hard to be good and appear normal, but with all the stress she is under, can she manage it?
I will start off by saying that this story is utterly gripping, once you get into it you don’t want to put it down. There is always a danger of a story being too hard to swallow when it deals with such a delicate subject matter; because the victims of Milly’s mother were children; but I feel that in this case Ali Land has managed to get it just right, as you can’t stop yourself from being immersed in this book.
It is easy to see that there is some prior knowledge or a lot of research done, about the handling of a situation such as the one that Milly finds herself in. Especially with regards to the process of her placing in a foster home with relative anonymity, dealing with the lawyers and support workers and then eventually being a witness in the case. I found this a really fascinating part of the storyline. However a lot of the narrative was also based around Milly’s time at school, and I felt that these sections were at points just too clichéd for my liking.
I could understand there being animosity between Milly and Phoebe. In the book you are told that Phoebe’s parents had said there would be no more foster children for a while, and then Milly comes along; that I find perfectly acceptable. I just felt that having Phoebe as the instigator of a tirade of bullying at school, and some behaviours that weren’t directed at Milly but had quite severe results were just too unbelievable. Whilst I know that the stereotypical mean girl does exist in the real world, I just felt that in this story there was no way that Phoebe could push it to that extent without someone other than only their peers noticing.
For me this also meant that Phoebe, who does play a big role in the story felt a bit underdeveloped. There is a lot of hinting to a softer side and some troubles of her own, but none of it gets properly explored, apart from the fairly obvious parent issues. I feel like the scenes that involve her that are supposed to make an impact, sometimes fall a little short because of this.
Another thing that I had difficulty with was the staccato style of writing. Constantly stopping and starting, I found it hard to follow at points and felt like I had to concentrate on it a lot more than should be necessary. Whilst I could see that this style is possibly being used as a symbol of Milly’s personality or to make the writing more impactful, personally I felt like it made it harder for me to connect with Milly. Or maybe the point is to keep you detached but it did hinder my experience slightly. Having said that, I don’t know if it’s because I did eventually get used to this style or because it’s not as prominent in the second half of the book but eventually it read a lot easier.
Despite these issues that I did have with the book, one thing that I really admired was that it didn’t sensationalise the abuse and actions toward the children. Instead of being told exactly what has happened in grim detail, there are hints here and there. From snippets of Milly’s memories and how her mother interacts with her, it is left to your own imagination and you are able to draw your own fair conclusions. I think this makes the book stronger, as for me it really built to the suspense of the trial. Not being given all the exact details at once meant that you were conjuring your own beliefs over what happened, especially to the last child, and that really kept me hooked into the story.
Good Me, Bad Me is definitely a book that is going to cause some controversy and a lot of discussion. Whilst I had my issues with it, I would still urge others to read it, as it is an enthralling read and a voice and story such as Milly’s is rare.
Thank you to Michael Joseph and Netgalley for the review copy of this book.