Read of the Week

Good Me Bad Me

Ali Land

Penguin

Review: Chantel Erfort

Women are generally considered to be the nurturers and, arguably, less likely to engage in horrendous crimes such as child abuse and serial killing.

But Good Me Bad Me forces us not only to face the reality that women can be vicious murderers but also that children can be capable of doing bad things.

Annie grew up with a mother who was a serial killer, but at the age of 15, she turns her mom in to the police. By this time her mother has already been responsible for the deaths of nine young children. Unable to continue to bear the complicity of her mother’s crimes, Annie spills the beans – but has to suffer the consequences as she prepares to face her mother in court.

Living under a new name, Milly, and with a foster family whose patriarch is the young girl’s psychologist Mike Newmont, she struggles to fit in and overcome the guilt of having turned her mother over to the police.

Further struggles are her difficult relationship with Mike’s daughter Phoebe and his wife Saskia who is fighting demons of her own.

Largely told through the internal monologue of Milly as narrator, I initially struggled to get into this book, finding the tone a bit cheesy and juvenile, but after a few short chapters, I found I couldn’t put the book down, having reminded myself that the narrator is, after all, only 15 years old.

Land expertly depicts the manipulation children are capable of, as well as the vicious things young women, in particular, do to each other as they fight for power, popularity and a position at the front of the line.

The relationships in Good Me Bad Me are complex, and the book gives an intimate glimpse into the impact fostering has on biological children, and the fallout of the trauma foster children sometimes bring into the family circle.

Land spent 10 years working as a child and adolescent mental health nurse in schools and hospitals in the UK and so she is well-versed in the subject. And the children she worked with during this time are given a special acknowledgement at the end of the book.

The power of the twist in the tale of Good Me Bad Me is that it’s something you suspect at the start, but are slowly discouraged from believing. Such is the power of Milly’s manipulation – and Land’s development of the character.

Good Me Bad Me is an easy, yet engaging read.