I am all about living in Canada, the true North strong and free and all that, but I really struggle when I see a book on my wishlist that comes out so much later here than in the UK! One of these books was Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land. After reading a plethora of positive reviews and hype during the time of the UK release (which was in January), I waited with baited breath until I could get my hands on a copy! Now that I have read one of my most anticipated September titles, I am feeling a little bit mixed about my feelings.
The novel opens with the introduction of Milly (aka Annie) who is new to the foster care system after turning in her mother, a serial killer, to the authorities. Milly is awaiting her mother’s trial in which she is the star witness. However, Milly has some secrets too; wrestling with her guilt and dealing with her troubling past, Milly is forced to face her most internal desires and question whether or not she will be good or bad. After all, she is her mother’s daughter.
One of the first things that struck me about this novel was the characterization. Kids are creepy. Kids as a narrator are creepy. This was clearly represented within the pages of this story. Milly is such a complex character and she was really interesting to watch develop. She seems to be quite the mess, and for good reason, and I felt like I was able to get into her headspace through my reading. Land does a brilliant job at creating a memorable character here. However, one of my main issues with the text came from the disjointed narrative style. I realize that this was probably intentional due to the unreliable nature and psychological state of our protagonist but I found this style a little hard to follow. I think I would have gotten much more from the text if it had been more of a third person narration instead of first person. I did end up getting used to it in the end and I did find that by the end of the text, I was following it easier.
I loved the little vignettes that were placed throughout the text that gave insight to the atrocities that Milly witnessed while living in her mother’s house of horrors. I thought this gave such an eerie and ominous tone to the text and legitimately creeped me out.
Now, my mixed feelings do not come from a hatred of the text or from a lack of entertainment because, don’t get me wrong, this novel was binge read worthy and I finished it very quickly, it was just completely different from what I was expecting. I was thinking this would be full of twists and turns but I knew exactly where the plot was going. I thought this would be a fast paced thriller and instead, it was a slow burning character study. I feel like maybe I became a bit of a victim of the hype on this one, but I still really enjoyed the story for what it was.
If you are looking for a fast paced thriller with mind-blowing twists, then this one probably will not be for you. However, if you into a character that will look deep into the psyche of a character and bring an eerie feeling to your bones, then this will be up your alley!
4/5 stars from me.
Thanks to the author and the publisher for a copy of this book; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.
Want to know what my other #cjsreads members thought about this one? Keep reading to see what Jessica and Chandra had to say about Good Me Bad Me.
What Chandra Thought:
“Milly’s mother is a serial killer.” Boom, sold! Absolutely will read a book with this as a selling point. Milly tells the police about what is going on at her house and they give her a new life, with a new name, a new home with a foster family and a new school. Things get complicated at the home when Phoebe, their daughter, is jealous of the attention Milly is getting and decides to try and make her life hell. What she doesn’t realize is that Milly’s whole life has been hell. Milly’s not the one that should be careful. Everyone around her should be. She struggles to give in to some feelings that pop up because that’s all she knows, or to be the better person and find that normal life that she craves but doesn’t know how to have. This isn’t a book where there’s some big mystery to solve. This isn’t a book where nonstop action occurs on every page. This is a book where you delve into the mind of a teenage girl dealing with her own post traumatic stress from what happened to her at the hands of her mother… and others. The author does a great job of incorporating bits and pieces of flashbacks to keep you turning those pages to find out exactly what happened to Milly. Any of you who have read my reviews before know that I LOVE getting into the minds of characters and this book is exactly that. We are deep into the psyche of Milly. It’s a deep and intense characterization of a girl dealing with guilt for turning her mother in, of still feeling love for her and battling herself at every turn. This is a prime example of nature vs. nuture. A fascinating and all too real battle in the world of psychology. Don’t let the slower pace fool you. And yes, while I normally like a faster paced book, this one is exactly as it should be considering the subject matter and the slow burn of Milly’s journey from basically being captive to her mother, turning her in and then preparing for the court battle where she is the main witness against her. I was thoroughly fascinated. An absolute beauty of an intelligent psychological thriller… I’m thoroughly impressed with this debut.