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Good Me Bad Me: A Novel

Good Me Bad Me: A Novel

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Good Me Bad Me: A Novel

4/5 (41 evaluări)
344 pages
5 hours
Sep 5, 2017



Good Me Bad Me is dark, compelling, voice-driven psychological suspense by debut author Ali Land: "Could not be more unputdownable if it was slathered with superglue." —Sunday Express

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother's daughter.

Sep 5, 2017

Despre autor

Ali Land's background is in adolescent mental health, and the way in which children survive extraordinary circumstances interests her greatly. Books from her teenage years--in particular The Wasp Factory and Lord of the Flies--helped inspire this novel. Ali is a full-time writer. Good Me, Bad Me is her debut novel.

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Good Me Bad Me - Ali Land



Forgive me when I tell you it was me.

It was me that told.

The detective. A kindly man, belly full and round. Disbelief at first. Then, the stained dungarees I pulled from my bag. Tiny.

The teddy bear on the front peppered red with blood. I could have brought more, so many to choose from. She never knew I kept them.

Shifted in his chair, he did. Sat up straight, him and his gut.

His hand—I noticed a slight tremor as it reached for the telephone. Come now, he said. You need to hear this. The silent waiting for his superior to arrive. Bearable for me. Less so for him. A hundred questions beat a drum in his head. Is she telling the truth? Can’t be. That many? Dead? Surely not.

I told the story again. And again. Same story. Different faces watched, different ears listened. I told them everything.


Almost everything.

The video recorder on, a gentle whirring the only noise in the room once I finished my statement.

You might have to go to court, you know that, right? You’re the only witness, one of the detectives said. Another asked, Do you think it’s safe for us to send her home? If what she’s saying is true? The chief inspector in charge replied, We’ll have a team assembled in a matter of hours, then turned to me and said, Nothing’s going to happen to you. It already has, I wanted to reply.

Everything moved quickly after that, it had to. I was dropped off at the school gates, in an unmarked car, in time for pickup. In time for her to pick me up. She would be waiting with her demands, recently more urgent than usual. Two in the last six months. Two little boys. Gone.

Act normal, they said. Go home. We’re coming for her. Tonight.

The slow grind of the clock above my wardrobe. Tick. Tock. Tick. And they did. They came. The middle of the night, the element of surprise in their favor. A nearly imperceptible crunching on the gravel outside. I was downstairs by the time they forced their way through the door.

Shouting. A tall, thin man dressed in plain clothes, unlike the others. A string of commands sliced through the sour air of our living room. You, take upstairs. You, in there. You two take the cellar. You. You. You.

A tidal wave of blue uniforms scattered throughout our house. Guns held in praying hands, flat against their chests. The thrill of the search, along with the terror of the truth, etched in equal measure on their faces.

And then you.

Dragged from your room. A red crease of sleep visible down your cheek, eyes foggy with the adjustment from a state of rest to a state of arrest. You said nothing. Even when your face was mashed into the carpet, your rights read out, their knees and elbows pressed in your back. Your nightie rode high up your thighs. No underwear. The indignity of it all.

You turned your head to the side. Faced me. Your eyes never left mine, I read them with ease. You said nothing to them, yet everything to me. I nodded.

But only when no one was watching.


New name. New family.




*   *   *

My foster dad Mike’s a psychologist, an expert in trauma; so is his daughter, Phoebe, although more in the causing than the healing. Saskia, the mother. I think she’s trying to make me feel at home, although I’m not sure, she’s very different from you, Mummy. Skinny and vacant.

Lucky, the staff at the unit told me while I waited for Mike to come. What a fantastic family the Newmonts are, and a place at Wetherbridge. Wow. Wow. WOW. Yes, I get it. I should feel lucky, but really I’m scared. Scared of finding out who and what I might be.

Scared of them finding out, too.

A week ago now Mike came to collect me, toward the end of the summer holidays. My hair brushed neat, pulled back in a band, I practiced how to speak, should I sit or stand. Every minute that went by, when the voices I heard weren’t his, the nurses instead, sharing a joke, I became convinced he and his family had changed their minds. Come to their senses. I stood rooted to the spot, waiting to be told, Sorry, you won’t be going anywhere today.

But then he arrived. Greeted me with a smile, a firm handshake, not formal, but nice, nice to know he wasn’t afraid to connect. To run the risk of being contaminated. I remember him noticing my lack of belongings, one small suitcase. In it, a few books, some clothes and other things hidden too, memories of you. Of us. The rest, taken as evidence when our house was stripped bare. Not to worry, he said, we’ll organize a shopping trip. Saskia and Phoebe are at home, he added, we’ll all have dinner together, a real welcome.

We met with the head of the unit. Gently, gently, he said, take each day as it comes. I wanted to tell him, It’s the nights I fear.

Smiles exchanged. Handshakes. Mike signed on the line, turned to face me and said, Ready?

Not really, no.

But I left with him anyway.

The drive home was short, less than an hour. Every street and building new to me. It was light when we got there, a big house, white pillars at the front. Okay? asked Mike. I nodded, though I didn’t feel okay. I waited for him to unlock the front door; my heart spiraled up into my throat when I realized it wasn’t locked. We walked straight in, could have been anyone. He called out to his wife, I’d met her a few times now. Sas, he said, we’re home. Coming, was the reply. Hi, Milly, she said, welcome. I smiled, that’s what I thought I should do. Rosie, their terrier, greeted me too, jumped at my legs, sneezed with joy when I reached for her ears, gave them a rub. Where’s Phoebs? Mike asked. On her way back from Clondine’s, Saskia replied. Perfect, he said, dinner in half an hour or so then. He suggested Saskia should show me to my room, I remember him nodding at her in a way that looked like encouragement. For her, not me.

I followed her up the stairs, tried not to count. New home. New me.

It’s just you and Phoebe on the third floor, Saskia explained, we’re on the next level down. We’ve given you the room at the back, it has a nice view of the garden from the balcony.

It was the yellow of the sunflowers I saw first. Brightly colored. Smiles in a vase. I thanked her, told her they were one of my favorite flowers, she looked pleased. Feel free to explore, she said, there’s some clothes in the wardrobe, we’ll get you more of course, you can choose them. She asked me if I needed anything. No, I replied, and she left.

I put my suitcase down, walked over to the balcony door, checked it was locked. Secure. The wardrobe to the right, tall, antique pine. I didn’t look inside, I didn’t want to think about putting on clothes, taking them off. As I turned round, I noticed drawers under the bed, opened them, ran my hands along the back and the sides—nothing there. Safe, for now. An en suite, large, the entire wall on the right covered with a mirror. I turned away from my reflection, didn’t want to be reminded. I checked the lock on the bathroom door worked, and that it couldn’t be opened from the outside, then I sat on the bed and tried not to think about you.

Before long, I heard feet pounding up the stairs. I tried to stay calm, to remember the breathing exercises I’d been shown by my psychologist, but my head felt fuzzy, so when she appeared at my door I focused on her forehead, as close to eye contact as I could manage. Dinner’s ready, her voice more like a purr, creamy, a dash of snide, just as I remembered her from when we met with the social worker. We couldn’t meet at the unit, she wasn’t allowed to know the truth, or be given the opportunity to wonder. I remember feeling intimidated. The way she looked, blond and self-assured, bored, forced to welcome strangers into her home. Twice during the meeting she asked how long I’d be staying. Twice she was shushed.

Dad asked me to come and get you, she said, her arms folded across her chest. Defensive. I’d seen the staff at the unit calling patients out on what their body language meant, labeling it. I quietly watched, learned a lot. It’s days ago now, but the last thing she said before she turned on her heels like an angry ballerina stuck in my head: Oh, and welcome to the madhouse.

I followed her smell, sweet and pink, down to the kitchen, fantasizing about what having a sister might be like. What sort of sisters she and I might become. She would be Meg, I thought, I would be Jo, little women of our own. I’d been told at the unit, hope was my best weapon, it would be what got me through.

Foolishly, I believed them.


I slept in my clothes that first night. Silk pajamas chosen by Saskia remained unworn, touched only to move them from my bed. The material slippery on my skin. I’m able to sleep better now, if only for part of the night. I’ve come a long way since I left you. The staff at the unit told me I didn’t speak for the first three days. I sat on the bed, back against the wall. Stared. Silent. Shock they called it. Something much worse, I wanted to say. Something that came into my room every time I allowed myself to sleep. Moved in a slither, under the door, hissed at me, called itself Mummy. Still does.

When I can’t sleep, it’s not sheep I count, it’s days until the trial. Me against you. Everybody against you. Twelve weeks on Monday. Eighty-eight days, and counting. I count up, I count down. I count until I cry, and again until I stop, and I know it’s wrong but, somewhere in the numbers, I begin to miss you. I’m going to have to work hard between now and then. There are things I must put right in my head. Things I must get right if I’m called upon to present in court. So much can go wrong when all eyes are looking the same way.

Mike has a big part to play in the work to be done. A treatment plan drawn up between him and the unit staff detailed a weekly therapy session with me in the run-up to the trial. An opportunity for me to discuss any concerns or worries with him. Yesterday he suggested Wednesdays, midway through each week. I said yes, not because I wanted to. But because he wanted me to, he thinks it will help.

School begins tomorrow, we’re all in the kitchen. Phoebe’s saying Thank god, can’t wait to get back, and out of this house. Mike laughs it off, Saskia looks sad. Over the past week I’ve noticed something’s not right between her and Phoebe. They exist almost entirely independently of each other, Mike the translator, the mediator. Sometimes Phoebe calls her Saskia, not Mum. I expected her to be punished the first time I heard her say it, but no. Not that I’ve seen. I also haven’t seen them touch each other, and I think touch is an indicator of love. Not the kind of touch you experienced though, Milly. There is good touch and bad touch, said the staff at the unit.

Phoebe announces she’s going out to meet someone called Izzy, who just got back from France. Mike suggests she take me too, introduce me. She rolls her eyes and says Come on, I haven’t seen Iz all summer, she can meet her tomorrow. It’ll be nice for Milly to meet one of the girls, he persists, take her to some of the places you hang out. Fine, she agrees, but it’s not really my job.

It’s nice of you though, says Saskia.

She stares her mother down. Stares and stares, until she wins. Saskia looks away, a pink flush imprinting on her cheeks.

I was just saying how nice I thought you were being.

Yeah, well, nobody asked you, did they?

I wait for the backlash, a hand or an object. But nothing. Only Mike.

Please don’t speak to your mother like that.

When we leave the house there’s a girl in a tracksuit sitting on the wall opposite our driveway. She looks at us as we pass. Phoebe says Fuck off you little shit, find another wall to sit on. The girl responds by giving her the finger.

Who was that? I ask.

Just some skanky kid from the estate.

She nods toward the tower blocks on the left-hand side of our road.

Don’t get used to this by the way, I’ll be doing my own thing when school kicks off properly.


The close just there runs right past our garden, there’s nothing much up there, a few garages and stuff, and it’s quicker to get to school this way.

What time do you normally leave in the morning?

It depends. I usually meet Iz and we walk together. Sometimes we go to Starbucks and hang out for a bit, but it’s hockey season this term and I’m captain so I’ll be leaving early most mornings doing fitness and stuff.

You must be really good if you’re captain.

Suppose so. So what’s your story then? Where are your folks?

An invisible hand reaches into the pit of my stomach, squeezes it hard, doesn’t let go. I feel my head fill up again. Relax, I tell myself, I practiced these questions with the staff at the unit, over and over again.

My mum left when I was young. I lived with my dad but he died recently.

Fuck, that’s pretty shit.

I nod, leave it at that. Less is more, I was told.

Dad probably showed you some of this stuff last week, but at the end of our road, just here, there’s a shortcut to school that way.

She points to the right.

Cross over the road, take the first left and then the second street on the right, it takes about five minutes from there.

I’m about to thank her but she’s distracted, her face breaking into a smile. I follow her gaze and see a blond girl crossing the road toward us, blowing exaggerated air kisses. Phoebe laughs and waves, says, That’s Iz. Her legs glow brown against the ripped denim shorts she’s wearing, and like Phoebe, she’s pretty. Very pretty. I watch the way they greet each other, drape round each other. A conversation begins a hundred miles an hour. Questions are flung, returned, they pull their phones out of their pockets, compare photos. They snigger about boys, and a girl named Jacinta who Izzy says is an absolute fright in her bikini, I swear the whole fucking pool emptied when she went for a swim. This whole interaction takes only minutes, but with the awkwardness of being ignored, it feels like hours. It’s Izzy who looks at me, then says to Phoebe, Who’s this then, the newest newbie at Mike’s rescue center?

Phoebe laughs and replies, She’s called Milly. She’s staying with us for a bit.

Thought your dad wasn’t taking anyone else in?

Whatever. You know he can’t help himself when it comes to strays.

Are you coming to Wetherbridge? Izzy asks me.


Are you from London?


Do you have a boyfriend?


Crikey, do you only speak in robot tongue? Yes. No. No. She waves her arms around, makes a mechanical noise like the Dalek from the Doctor Who episode I watched in a drama lesson at my old school. They both erupt into laughter, return to their phones. I wish I could tell them I speak like that, slow and purposeful, when I’m nervous and to filter the noise. White noise, punctuated by your voice. Even now, especially now, you’re here, in my head. Normal behavior required little effort for you, but for me, an avalanche. I was always surprised by how much they loved you at your work. No violence or rage, your smile gentle, your voice soothing. In the palm of your hand you kept them, isolated them. Took the women you knew could be persuaded to one side, talked close in their ears. Secure. Loved. That’s how you made them feel, that’s why they trusted you with their children.

I might head home, I’m not feeling so good.

Fine, Phoebe replies. Just don’t get me in trouble with Dad.

Izzy looks up, a provocative smile. See you at school, she says, and as I walk away I hear her add: This should be fun.

The girl in the tracksuit is no longer on the wall. I pause to look into the estate, follow the tower blocks up to the sky, my neck craning backwards. There were no tower blocks in Devon, just houses and fields. Acres of privacy.

When I go back into the house, Mike asks me where Phoebe is. I explain about Izzy. He smiles, an apology, I think.

They’ve been friends forever, he says. A whole summer to catch up on. Do you fancy a quick chat in my study, touch base before school tomorrow?

I say yes—I seem to be saying it a lot, it’s a good word, one I can hide behind. Mike’s study is large with bay windows overlooking the garden. A mahogany-colored desk, a photo frame and a green antique-style reading lamp, piles of paper. There’s a home library, rows of built-in shelves full of books, the remaining walls painted a mauve color. It feels stable. Safe. He sees me looking at the shelves, laughs. I know, I know, he says, far too many, but between you and me, I don’t think you can ever have too many books.

I nod, agree.

Did you have a good library at your school? he asks.

I don’t like the question. I don’t like thinking about life, the way it was before. But I answer, show I’m willing.

Not really, but there was one in the village next to ours, I went there sometimes.

Reading’s very therapeutic, just let me know if you’d like to borrow anything. I’ve plenty, as you can see.

He winks, but not in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable. Gestures to an armchair, Take a seat. Relax. I sit down, notice the door to the study is closed, Mike must have done it when I was looking at his books. He refers to the chair I’m sitting in.

It’s comfy, isn’t it? he says.

I nod, try to look more relaxed, more comfy. I want to get it right. It also reclines, he adds, you just need to flick the lever on the side, if it takes your fancy, go for it. It doesn’t, and I don’t. The thought of being alone with someone in a room on a chair that reclines, me on my back. No. I don’t like that idea.

I know we discussed this at the unit before you were discharged, but it’s important to go over what we agreed before the next few weeks of school swallow you up.

One of my feet begins to jiggle. He looks down at it.

You look unsure.

A little bit.

All I ask is that you keep an open mind, Milly. View these sessions as moments of respite, somewhere to pause and take a breath. We’ve got just under three months until the court case starts so partly we’ll be working on preparing you for that, but we’ll also continue with the guided relaxation the unit psychologist started with you.

Do we still have to do that?

Yes, it’ll be helpful for you in the long run.

How can I tell him it won’t, not if things that frighten me find a way out.

It’s human nature to want to avoid the things we feel threatened by, Milly, the things that make us feel less in control, but it’s important we go there. Begin the process of putting things to rest. I’d like you to think of a place that feels safe for you. I’m going to ask you to tell me about it next time we meet. Initially it might feel like a difficult thing to do, but I need you to try. It can be anywhere, a classroom at your old school, a bus journey you used to take.

She drove me to school. Every day.

Or somewhere in the village you lived next to, like a café or the library you mentioned, anywhere as long as the feeling you associate with it is a comforting one. Does that make sense?

I’ll try.

Good. Now, what about tomorrow, how are you feeling? It’s never easy being the new girl.

I’m looking forward to being busy, it helps.

Well, just make sure and ease yourself in, it can be quite full-on at Wetherbridge, but I’ve no doubt you’ll keep up. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about or ask, anything you’re feeling unsure about?


No, thank you.

Let’s leave it at that for tonight then, but if anything does crop up in between now and our first session, my door’s always open.

As I go back to my room I can’t help but feel frustrated that Mike wants to continue with the hypnosis. He thinks by calling it guided relaxation I won’t recognize it for what it is, but I do. I overheard the psychologist at the unit telling a colleague that the hypnosis technique he’d been using on me would hopefully be a good way to unlock me. Better left locked, I wanted to tell him.

I hear music as I pass Phoebe’s room so she must be back. I work up the courage to knock on her door. I want to ask her what to expect at school tomorrow.

Who is it? she shouts.

Milly, I reply.

I’m busy getting ready for tomorrow, she responds, you should do the same.

I whisper my reply through the wood—I’m scared—then I go into my room, lay out my new uniform. A blue skirt, white shirt, and a stripy tie, two shades of blue. And try as I might not to think of you, it’s all I can do. Our daily drive to and from school. You worked the early shift so I wouldn’t have to get the bus. An opportunity to remind me, the song you sang as you pinched me. How my mouth watered with pain. Our secrets are special, you’d say, when the chorus came on, they’re between me and

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  • (5/5)
    Thanks to the publisher, Flatiron Books, for an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.This is a debut novel from Ali Land. She has learned quickly how to grab your attention, keep it, and not let you go. It's a dark, chilling, psychological thriller with a 15-year-old protagonist, Annie. After Annie reports her serial killer mother to the police, she is given a new identity and foster family. She is now Milly living with a wealthy psychologist, Mike; his wife, Saskia who has lots of problems of her own, and their mean, jealous 15-year-old daughter, Phoebe.Since Milly's mother made her participate in the nine killings of little children, Milly is worried that she may have inherited her mother's mental illness. She wrestled with whether she was a good person or a bad person. She longs for a mother to nurture her and so does Phoebe since Saskia has never been much of a mother. When Phoebe feels like Milly is getting all the attention, she decides to do mean things to Milly. A couple of Phoebe's friends help in making Milly's life miserable. The plot of the story leads up to the mother's trial where Milly must testify. There are some interesting side stories but the author keeps them to a minimum.This is a fast-paced page-turner! You won't want to put it down. I don't usually read horror novels but I was beginning to feel like this was one. Even some of the backstory scenes are hard to read.
  • (5/5)
    Milly's mother is a serial killer. Milly takes the brave step to turn her in the police. Sounds like the right thing to do, doesn't it? All is not as it seems. Milly moves in with a foster family, and that is where the truth really comes out. Don't we all have a bad side? Is is bad to do bad if it is done with the best intentions? Who really is good? Bottom line, poor Milly is not what she seems, but then again, who is? Loved this book!
  • (3/5)
    I was kind of disappointed with this book. The premise was promising - daughter Milly turns in her serial killer mom and testifies against her at her trial - but the foster family she's living with was annoying, as was Milly's habit of conversing silently with her mother (who she referred to as "you" throughout). I saw the ending coming a mile away - another disappointment. It could have been so much better, which I will chalk up to the fact that this is a debut novel.
  • (4/5)
    Milly used to be Annie. But everything changed when she walked into a police station and told the officer on duty about her mother. Annie’s mother was a serial killer. Annie got a new foster family and a new name, and her mother is in jail.But the trial is coming up, and Milly-Annie must face her mother one more time, must be the one who sends her away for good. But with the stress of the trial and tensions in her foster family; is Annie her own person, or simply her mother’s daughter?This is one of those ubiquitous psychological thrillers which are all the rage these days (young people, grumble grumble). But Good Me Bad Me stands out from the pack for being a truly disturbing read. Honestly, parts of this book read more like a horror novel than a psychological thriller. I’m a fan.Milly’s past is shown to us in flashes and snippets, with a lot left implied or unsaid. Her mother is truly a boogeyman figure, who looms dark and sinister even when Milly is supposed to feel safe. And yet, Milly’s relationship with her mother is more complicated than monster and victim. Milly hates and fears her mother, yes, but these emotions are tangled up in a truly twisted love of the person who raised her, and a desire to make her mother proud (The Marsh King’s Daughter, by Karen Dionne superbly explored this fucked up family dynamic).The book loses a bit of steam for me when it goes in for all the high school drama (yes, yes, teenagers are the real psychopaths, this is old news). Though the truly horrific bullying experienced by Milly provides a great backdrop for her struggle between some semblance of normality, or the sociopathic tendencies nurtured by her mother.In all, this book is a standout in an overcrowded genre. Those who enjoy their books dark, disturbing, and more than a bit fucked up will want to add this one to their to-read lists.An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
  • (4/5)
    Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school. But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all. When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother's daughter.I kept waiting for Milly to take her frustrations out on one of her tormentors. We were always aware that there were secrets surrounding her mother’s crimes that she knew more about than she admitted... yet each chapter brought us closer to the edge and then pulled us back, leaving us to wonder if Milly was the innocent bystander or the real perpetrator. When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? The book is beyond tense. The characters are not all liable but they are all very real. Anyone that likes psychological thrillers with a story that takes you on a journey of unexpected twists will really like [Good Me Bad Me].
  • (5/5)
    Be prepared – the last half of this book will keep you reading all night.I think there are times that we all struggle with our inner demons. This is only natural. There’s the part of us that wants to please everyone, and there’s the part that wants to rebel against parents and society.But for Annie/Milly it is a bit more than that. Since the age of five Annie has been abused in her home. She has witnessed horrific acts done by her mother. Finally at the age of 15 she turns her mother in to the police. Upon investigation it is revealed that her mother has killed nine children. Now Annie is known as Milly and lives in a foster home. The home consists of Mike who is a therapist experienced in trauma cases, his wife Saskia, and teenage daughter Phoebe who is not at all happy with Milly being there.Milly tries to please her foster family even though Phoebe makes her life hell, especially at school. But Milly is haunted by the voice of her mother. As is typical in child abuse cases, no matter how severe the abuse the child still wants to be loved by its parent. So Milly struggles with the knowledge that she will be the primary witness in court against her mother. She also knows just how manipulative her mother is.I could see what direction the book was going it, but Ms. Land artfully doled out pieces of the chilling puzzle a few pieces at a time, building the suspense notch by notch. I definitely recommend this book to those who love a good thriller.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent psychological suspense. I don't know what stops me from giving this 5 stars.When Annie turns her mother in for murder she becomes Milly and lives with her psychologist, Mike, who will help her prepare for her mother's trial. What he doesn't prepare for her is being bullied at school by Phoebe, Mike's daughter (yes, she lives with her as well). He doesn't prepare her for all that she hears in her head - mainly her mother - or the feelings that make her constantly feel as though she is her mother's daughter.I really enjoyed this one. I like how you were never really in the know.
  • (5/5)
    Damage. So much damage. It's bad enough when parents inflict minor wounds on their children; perhaps a bit of inattention at the wrong time or a remark made in anger. What Annie went through was at the deep end of that. Her mother, a serial killer of young children, coaching Annie to become like her. Years of damage. Once freed of her mother physically, Annie has a choice to make: continue on the path chosen for her by her mother or attempt to create a new "normal" life.The author, who was a child and adolescent mental health nurse, writes with a depth few could master. She knows that a child will cling to an abusive parent because it's all they know and there is always that love and hope that things could be different somehow. The book is disturbing. It is well written. I wonder if the writing of this book was a catharsis for the author. I asked a psychiatrist friend of mine once if hearing all the horror stories of people damaged him in any way and he said, yes, that he too had to seek help; it became too much to bear.I received a copy of this book from FlatIron Books for my review.
  • (5/5)
    This is a relentless tale of a girl shaped by her serial killer mother. This girl is incredibly brave and strong, demonstrated by her need to escape and accepting that the only way to do so is to turn her mother in and testify against her. But this girl is also very weak and needy and wants so badly to belong and to be accepted by her foster family - the family of the man helping her prepare her testimony.Annie - now Milly - had to learn how to survive living with her mother. A cruel mother. And she is still surrounded by many cruel people. So the question is, how much of that learning is still with her and how will she cope? Is it ever possible to really escape?This is a sad and scary roller-coaster ride that will keep you guessing right until the end. Is she good or is she bad? Can she choose whether or not to be like her mother, or is it inevitable?I received an ARC of Good Me Bad Me from the publisher and thoroughly enjoyed both the suspense and the phrasing. Great read.
  • (5/5)
    'New name. New family. Shiny. New. Me.'People talk about the relative influences of nature vs nurture. But what if both influences were disturbingly malign throughout your childhood? Could you still forge a new path? If there are good and bad wolves inside each of us, which will win in the battle for supremacy? Annie knows the answer to this. It's the wolf you feed. But which wolf will she feed?-- What's it about? --Annie has secrets. Bad secrets. Her mother is a serial killer who's about to go on trial because Annie reported her to the police. Despite being given a fresh identity and a foster family placement, Annie/Milly struggles to break away from her mother's influence. She'd like to be good, but she's having some trouble with her memories, the looming trial and her new foster sister, who hates her. Can Milly fully embrace her new life? Even when the trial is over, she'll still be her mother's daughter.-- What's it like? --Deliciously creepy. Creatively narrated. Beautifully disturbing.Milly narrates her own story in prose that's frequently organised in unusual, fragmented ways, drawing readers firmly into the workings of a damaged mind. I was reminded of Caroline Smaile's debut novel, 'In Search of Adam', which also uses fragmented language to reveal a mind damaged by abuse.'Protégée. You loved saying that word. Brave enough. Am I? The lessons you gave me, good enough. Were they? You want them to blame me. you were there too, annie. I try to block out your voice.'The narration is what makes the novel so compelling and disturbing. We see the world through Milly's eyes, but we learn early on that she has a habit of withholding information even as she narrates around a particular event, saving a significant detail of her own or someone else's behaviour to reveal later on. This is a stunningly effective way of gently unbalancing readers and reminding us that Milly is, ultimately, a damaged and occasionally unreliable narrator. The key aspect of these reveals is that, until Milly chooses to reveal the details she kept back, we are not aware that there are any gaps to be filled. I loved this aspect of Land's story-telling and was always on the look-out for more hidden gaps, with the result that I was constantly on tenterhooks, speculating about what might have happened or what might be about to happen.-- What's to like? --Land's portrayal of Milly is superbly chilling. There's a coldness to her at times, a detachment that allows her to comment on the bullying she experiences without it truly touching her.'Thrown by my defiance, they are, I see it. Fleeting. The twitch around their succulent lips, eyes slightly wider. I shake my head, slow and deliberate.'She manipulates other people carefully, adjusting her behaviour to reflect the image required - dutiful daughter, anxious sister, perfect pupil. She's a wonderfully ambiguous creation and I really wanted her to be 'good', and to move past her fear and her guilt.-- Final thoughts --I LOVED this book. It grew on me quietly and is one of those books that I came to fully appreciate days after I'd finished reading it, when the beauty and the horror had fully sunk in and I'd had the time to reflect on the way the whole narrative fits together.The subject matter is dark - child abuse and murder - but Land handles her materials deftly and we only ever catch sideways glimpses of the horrors Annie and her mother's victims suffered; we are never forced to suffer with then by enduring detailed discussion of the abuse. The book does, however, reinforce the horrific psychological damage such abuse can create in survivors, and remind us all of the paramount importance of investigating any suspected abuse.This is a compelling story of a very damaged young woman trying to build a new life for herself. Which wolf won? Why, the one that got fed, of course. The ending is delightfully chilling, and it's a testament to Land's creation that I really wanted to know what happened to Milly once the book was finished. (I have some ideas!)This is being promoted as a book club read and I can see why - there's plenty to discuss - but it's also genuinely suspenseful and chilling.Recommended.
  • (4/5)
    This book brought me through the whole spectrum of emotions. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Imogen Church, and she made this 4 star book into a 5 star experience. Her performance was outstanding as always and I relish every book she narrates. The ending was a little predictable, hence the 4 stars, but still riveting until the very last word.
  • (4/5)
    3.5 From the beginning I felt a great deal of sympathy for Milly. This young teen, who had so much to forget, had already been through so much, witnessed something beyond terrible, who know just wanted to be normal, and in a home where people cared about her in a healthy way. A therapist household sounds ideal but there was more going on here, making this a less than healthy environment for a troubled young girl. After a spate of so called psychological thrillers that I found mundane or the same as every other I was pleasantly surprised to find how much I liked this one. Definitely hooked me, turning the pages, one of the better ones out there Imho. Not that therewerent things in it that irked me,but they were things that could happen and do every day in real life. Mistakes made by those precessional enough to know better. People with ulterior motives, taking advantage of those the shouldn't. All in all this one hung together pretty well. Suspenseful, without all the blood and gore, just plain, solid, good writing to create the atmosphere. The ending not unexpected, could see this coming from what came before, but this worked for me too. Couldn't really see it ending any other way.ARC from Netgalley.
  • (4/5)
    What a ride! Going into this book, you expect dysfunction and psychological damage as Ali Land details a few weeks in the life of a fifteen-year-old girl who is taken in by a foster family after reporting her demented, child-torturing, murdering mother to authorities. Her stepdad doubles as her her therapist and father-figure she has never had throughout the trial process for her mother. However, the demons inside her leave her to question every move she has made and continues to made and even the thoughts she has. Is she inherently "bad" like her mother and doomed for a lifetime of lunacy? Or, has her mom brainwashed her only so much that she still has time to save herself from the evil she sees?

    This is a demented, deranged, and unhinged story that you can't step away from. Ali Land nails the notion of the human tendency to attain power over others for self-preservation. She braves the boundaries of evil vs decency. I applaud her courageous and bold undertaking of a very complex character and scenario. I see a movie being made out of this novel, for sure.
  • (3/5)
    Disturbing story about how we are formed by our upbringings. Also a disturbing insight into bullying.
  • (4/5)
    Wow!! A book about a serial killer's daughter? And, the daughter turns in her mother to the police? Yes, please!This book definitely held my interest as I sped through it. While reading it, there was no way that I could tell it was debut novel. It was well written and certainly worth my time.The subject matter was definitely uncomfortable, but thankfully there wasn't a lot of explaining or detail about what the mother was doing to the children.Thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC with the hopes that I would and review this book.
  • (3/5)
    This is the story of a small girl (Milly) and her mother who murdered nine small children in their home. The book starts with mom awaiting trial in jail and Milly who has been placed in a foster home. There is much tension with the families' other daughter who is close in age. As the novel progresses there are also other tensions within the family and surrounding her mom's trial. My problem with the book is that I figured out early on just about exactly how it would end. Easy to read but way too predictable.
  • (4/5)
    Annie loves her mother, but mom is a serial killer and the only way Annie can stop her is to turn her in to the police, an act that gets her mother arrested and puts Annie into foster care where she becomes Milly.But Milly’s new life is haunted by memories of her time with her mother, made difficult by bullying mean girls at her school, and overshadowed by the upcoming trial were she must testify. Her life is complicated; her secrets are many. And her fear is that she may become just like her mother. Will she be good? Or is she doomed to be bad?Readers may find this disturbing look into the thoughts of a tortured young girl difficult to set aside. Annie/Milly is a complex, well-drawn character and while readers may not foresee unexpected events in the creepily unfolding narrative, they are likely to find them filled with heart-wrenching despair.Recommended.
  • (4/5)
    This is a psychological thriller which I couldn’t put down. It was disturbing, chilling, even paced and I read it in one day. The main character is Annie, later renamed Milly, as she is placed in a protective environment after turning her mother over to the police. Milly’s mother is a serial killer, her victims all young children. I am thankful it wasn’t overly graphic when they described the murder of the children.Milly is fifteen years old and is placed in the home of Mike, a therapist who is writing a book about Milly and her mother. Milly was not told he would be documenting their therapy sessions for publication, accidentally discovering his notes one afternoon. It’s hard to share too much without giving spoilers.One thing I wish the author had resolved was the fate of Milly’s brother. He was fleetingly mentioned as part of reason Milly’s mother started killing children. The brother was charged with arson and I suppose incarcerated, but his story isn’t delved into near enough, nor what happened to him. The end was, by the time I was over three-quarters into the book, predictable. Still chilling though.I read this book with the Kindle British Mystery Book Club as the November main group feature. This is also another one ticked off for my New Author challenge.
  • (3/5)
    I was expecting a shocker of a thriller here given the summary & blurbs about its grittiness but after reading it... not so much. Both the summary & hype prompted me to buy this in hardcopy as it's not yet out in my country (a thing I will routinely do when I don't want to wait!)! Either I'm jaded or the usual reader's standard for shocking and cutting edge are at a much lower bar than mine. Or, in addition to having read too many mystery/psychological thrillers, I've seen so many Law & Order: SVU, DCI Banks & Luther episodes that I'm inured to what I was offered here.

    I thought the veiled reveal of the horrors Annie/Milly's mother meted out on her victims was very well done. It was never gratuitous and always left me wondering. This may be the best aspect to the story. It was effective as these things are related to the reader through Annie/Milly.

    Milly was the only well drawn character, unfortunately. She was the only one who was fully realized and with such care and attention that I have to wonder if the writer just didn't have any more left for everyone else. Mike, the psychologist treating Milly & also foster-father was flat. His best moment is when it's revealed he's been secretly writing a book on Milly & her mother's case. Saskia, the bored, drug-addled, cheating, long mentally absent wife & foster-mother was a ghostly copy of every other type you've read of this. I hoped we'd go deeper but that's not what she was here for. Phoebe, the beautiful, Queen B, bully daughter whose entire purpose on the planet seemed to be hissing, spitting & coming up with uninspired names to call people. Morgan, the girl who befriends Milly was a touch better drawn but even she misses the feels real mark.

    I predicted the two big reveals and have to admit that I was disappointed. It felt like it couldn't have gone any other way even though I'd been hoping it would. It made for a terribly anticlimactic end. I'm glad I read Milly's story but if I could do it all again, I wouldn't rush to it.
  • (4/5)
    A nice psychological thriller about a teenage girl whose mother is a serial killer. As she prepares to testify against her mother in court, she also tries to integrate into her new foster family. The final twist fell a little flat for me, but before that I really enjoyed it.
  • (5/5)
    Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land is a 2017 Penguin Books publication. Disturbing- Completely shocking!It takes a lot to well and truly wreak havoc with my psyche, to really give me a case of the shivers, and leave me feeling unsettled. This book took me down that path, and I won’t soon forget it anytime soon. The story is told through the eyes of fifteen- year old Milly, who has just turned her own mother, a serial killer, over to the authorities. Summarily, Milly is placed in foster care, in what appears to be an ideal household, with her foster father, Mike, doubling as her therapist. Yet, the household is far from stable. Mike and his wife have a teenage daughter of their own, named Phoebe, who, unaware of Milly's past, is jealous of the time her father spends with Milly. Phoebe decides to punish Milly by making her already difficult life, absolutely miserable. As Milly awaits her mother’s trial, where she is set to testify in person, despite her age, she sits through therapy sessions with Mike, befriends another girl, a fellow outcast named Morgan, and endured horrific bullying from Phoebe and her minions, all the while struggling with the side of her that favors her mother’s tendencies. ‘But the hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes.’Carson McCullers (1917-1967)The question then arises- Will good win the battle over Milly’s dark proclivities or will she eventually give herself over them? Right way, I knew this journey was headed down a dark, twisted path. I read with increasing trepidation, as Milly’s harrowing story unfolds. Milly’s mother, a female serial killer, whose voice is always running in Milly’s mind, planting seeds of doubt, is absolutely chilling. The secondary characters are well written, each contributing to Milly’s increasing anxiety, tempting her, misunderstanding her complexities and vastly underestimating the extent of her damaged character.As promised, this is a very controversial novel, one that really set my teeth on edge, and made my stomach churn with apprehension, really making me squirm. As a debut novelist, the author went with ‘write what you know’ as she is a mental health professional, herself. Her expertise was put to good use, and was without a doubt a monumental advantage in portraying the psychology behind Milly’s unbearable angst. Overall, I think this novel is one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve read this year. It might not be for everyone, but upon much reflection, I think the story is more troubling that it appears on the surface, which is weighty enough, but it also opens up a plethora of questions and endless ‘what if’ scenarios, that kept my brain buzzing deep into the night. Allegory and symbolisms abound with frequent, sly, and carefully orchestrated references to ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘Peter Pan’, which I will leave for you to draw your own conclusions. This is an outstanding debut novel. I highly recommend it to fans of psychological thrillers, especially. This one will mess with your mind and conscience, all at once, and I promise, despite all the comparisons to the ‘girl’ books, this one is unlike anything you’ve encountered, blowing all the coattail riders in this category right out of the water. The only thing left to say is – Read this book!
  • (4/5)
    This is a most unusual insightful story into the mind of a 15 year old. Annie's mum had been a killer, a taker of the innocent lives of children. Following the demise of a young boy called Daniel Annie has decided for her own sanity she must ask for help and disclose the evil deeds perpetrated by her mother. But can Annie ever be truly free from the clutches of an evil parent, are family relations so strong that the mind of an innocent child can be warped and twisted by a misguided and immoral parent...is blood really thicker than water? The story is told from the perspective of Annie and her new beginning as "Milly" under the guardianship of Mike, Saskia and their daughter Phoebe. This opportunity or fostering is to protect Milly and prepare her for the trial of her mother where she will be called as the main witness for the prosecution. But this story is much more than a simple trial, rather it shows the vulnerabilities, manipulation, envy and hatred that together make up the human condition. Phoebe is jealous of having to endure the company of Milly and is incensed that she is no longer the centre of attention so she embarks on a course of action, a war of attrition to humiliate and degrade her, inciting her friends to do the same. Mention is made on a number of occasions to William Golding's Lord of the Flies where the author paints a picture of a civilization consumed by savagery and chaos, the animal instincts of human nature. Indeed I found an uncomfortable familiarity between this classic novel and the predicament of Milly....but who's really manipulating who?? Good me Bad me is a very intense, claustrophobic experience, being trapped in the mind of child as she struggles to make sense of her situation. It is this entrapment that gives the dialogue a very edgy delivery creating some uncomfortable moments. Is Milly truly the innocent she attempts to portray or is there within her character an inherent evil that allows her to mould and manipulate those around her for her own gratification. It came as no surprise to learn that the author spent many years working as a mental health nurse with children and adolescents, and she has certainly used this experience to create a novel of great depth and insight. I enjoyed it immensely and in particular the ending which although expected was still shocking when it occurred. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written
  • (4/5)
    Annie's mom is a serial killer. Annie can only make it stop by going to the police. Awaiting the trial Annie goes to live with a foster family where she becomes Milly.I've got mixed feelings about this book. The premise is good and the story is interesting. There is enough to hold my interest and I really wanted to see where the story was going.At times the story is very dark and disturbing. There were more than one storyline in the book and some were only touched on and I felt needed to be explored a little more. I was left needing answers. The story was building up to a court case and I was expecting a little more where that was concerned. This part of the story I found disappointing. The storyline about the relationship between Milly and Pheobe I enjoyed but did find it a little predictable especially the ending.I liked this book, but at times felt let down. An interesting premise and the storyline was a little different. I read the book in two sittings as it was easy to read but at times found it uncomfortable .Thank you to the publisher via Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review the book .
  • (2/5)
    I have to say I didn't love this. It felt like a Lifetime Movie of the Week. Pretty shallow characters with very little plot details. The beginning started out ok but then the entire middle just felt like small circular plots not really going anywhere that I couldn't predict. Disappointed.
  • (4/5)
    This book is twisty with a dark premise. It’s about a teenage girl named Milly that is forced into foster care when her mother’s dark secret comes to light. For years she lived in a house with an abuser and a killer. She became accustomed to the unusual and doesn’t know exactly what way to go in her mind.

    She is placed with a family that seems normal on the surface, but each member brings a bigger issue to the table. Mike, the dad, is left to prepare Milly for her trail and while doing so, sets off on a dangerous psycho analysis. Phoebe, the daughter, is a jealous bully that is determined to shove Milly out the door, and Saskia, the mother, is a ghost with sinful nature. Its all a bit overwhelming, but Milly is determined to make this new place her permanent home.

    She goes back and forth between being good and bad. One minute she is determined to protect, the next, she threatens to destroy. To be honest, reading her story is quite the mind mess. Everything you think you know will be questioned and not all of it will be answered.

    I found this book to be intriguing and well plotted. I loved how all over the place the emotions were and found Milly to be awesome in her crazy. My only complaint would be that we got a lot of hints to Milly’s backstory, but never got confirmation on what really happened. I would’ve liked to dive deeper and see those secrets revealed.

    All in all, I really enjoyed it and recommend it!
  • (5/5)
    This is not your average read. No. No. No. This is your intense read. Do not plan anything this weekend. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just clear your weekend and read this book!

    I'm the type of person that tries to be friends with everyone, but I'm also a terrible judge of people. I can't imagine going to school with someone like Milly. I just can't fathom how one moves on from such a dark life and tries to start over with a new foster family, a new school, and a new community where you don't know anyone and you hope that no one ever recognizes you. Milly desperately needs good influences in her life. A lot of love and stability. And a whole lotta therapy! She's a fragile person, but also manipulative and conniving. She really pulls the wool over their eyes and does it with such skill.

    Phoebe is an angry girl who refuses to befriend Milly. She doesn't like having Milly in her house or in her school. As far as she's concerned, Milly can just go take a flying leap. She has a lot of hostility towards her mother and she wants attention from her father who seems too busy to make time for her. Rather than confront her parents about her feelings, she chooses to lash out at Milly and bullies her at home, at school, and on the internet.

    Mike and Saskia are not exactly the parents of the year. Mike is a therapist, but he doesn't divide his attention equally among the three women in his house. He comes across as overly obsessed with his practice, but he's very willing to counsel Milly because of her background. Saskia definitely has problems of her own and I don't think Mike really does enough to curb her behaviors and get her proper help. Her relationship with her daughter is almost non-existent.

    All in all, this book is deep. It's intense. It's worth the time to read it!
  • (2/5)
    This story was so disturbing and had so much potential. However; it fell a little short for me.This does have triggers for abuse (physical and sexual), bullying, and child murder.The parts around Milly and her past were thrilling. I wanted to know more and the more you learn the more disturbing it becomes. However; then you jump back to a game of mean girls at school and it just took away from the story. I was so bored with the foster family stuff in the first half of the book. Yes, there is mean girls, pranks, cheating, and scandals, but they were nothing that caught my attention. I just wanted to know more around the murders and what Milly went through. The second half did start to pick up a little. Everything does come together in the end. I predicted what was going to happen in the end, but there were still some twists I did not predict. I ended up skimming the first half to find out what happened. I also did not love the ending. Overall, this was only ok.