Review of Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land.

Good Me, Bad Me is a psychological exploration into the mind of a teenage girl who has been brought up, and continually abused by her mother. She has just turned her mother into the police, who happens to be a serial killer. The basic plot of this book follows Milly (Annie), as she tries to start a new life with a foster family, while dealing with testifying at her mother’s trial, and the nightmares which haunt her. She is fighting against her good side, and bad side.

The book has been cleverly written so that, even if you do not particularly like Milly as a character, she makes you root for her. Land has done an excellent job of presenting a character who is having an internal battle, yet does not feel as though she can discuss it with anybody. Following Milly in school, watching her respond to classmates, teachers, and bullies was a brilliant way of showing a mentally damaged individual in a normal environment. This meant that we could be in her mind in a situation we have all been in before; high school. She suffers through similar problems to most young girls, therefore the reader can tell that her view on the situation may be different to how they, or another, less psychologically damaged individual would react. The high school atmosphere makes the story accessible for teenagers and young adults, while the trial and darker aspects still make it attractive for an older audience.

My favourite aspect of this book is Milly’s mother’s voice in her head, as this represents the character’s internalised struggle to stay good and do the right thing. Furthermore, the characterisation of Mike as the ‘doting father’, Saskia as the ‘vacant mother’, and Phoebe as the ‘teenage brat’ were played out well, with underlying circumstances behind each character. I felt that the relationship between Saskia and Milly could have been played out more towards the end, as she has had problems also. They could have helped each other out, and moved forwards together.

Another intriguing thing about Good Me, Bad Me is the fact that we never get told the mother’s name, and her face, and Milly’s, never get described within the narrative. This could have been done for many reasons, however I believe that it is partnered with Milly’s thought process whereby she does not want to look at herself, or her mother. Also, I think that if Milly had used her name, she would have spoilt that one part of the story which is kept to herself. Also, the actions of the mother are only suggested, using imagery, so as to appeal to a younger age range. However, I believe that it would be inspired if Land wrote a prequel to this book, detailing the actions of the mother. This could appeal to an even darker, more niche sector of the market, while improving the diversity in the demographics of the reader.

Finally, I would be interested to see how Milly’s character develops in the future. The open end left us with a finale to this particular story, however now she has chosen to embrace on side, it could be very interesting. I would like to see how different she really is to her mother, and what similarities remain.

 

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