'NEW NAME .
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 by Ali Land is published in hardback on 12 January 2017 by Michael Joseph (Penguin Books) and is the author's debut novel.
There have been murmurings about Good Me, Bad Me on social media for months, the murmurs have now become shouts, it’s clear that this debut novel has already made an impact and when it’s finally published early next year, I am sure that it will have everyone talking.
I have to admit that I struggled to connect with either the characters or the story for the first couple of chapters, but once I’d aligned my brain to the author’s unusual rhythm and lead character Millie’s staccato voice, I very quickly became swept up in what has proved to be one of the most thought-provoking novels that I’ve read for a long time.
Millie, who was Annie, lives with Mike, Saskia and their daughter Phoebe. They are her foster family. Her own mother awaits trial for the murder of nine children. It was Annie who turned her in, who couldn’t bear any of it any longer. She’d suffered years of abuse from her mother, it had to stop. Annie made it stop.
As Milly, she finds it difficult to adjust. The girls at the school that she attends are mean-girls, led by her foster-sister Phoebe. Milly struggles with her internal anguish. Her ‘good me’ knows that her mother has to be locked away for a very long time, has to be punished. Her ‘bad me’ misses her mother, talks to her, dreams about her and re-creates her with art.
This is a novel that deals with dark, disturbing themes yet the ingenuity of it is what the author leaves unsaid. There are no graphic scenes, instead Ali Land steadily encourages the reader’s own imagination as Milly recounts and remembers, yet never quite admits.
Placing Milly with a dysfunctional family who are dealing with their own toxic issues takes some of the pressure from both Milly and the reader, she fits in perfectly with this trio of people who exude an air of confidence and perfection, yet hide their own horrors behind closed doors. It could be very easy to dislike Milly, she doesn’t make it easy for herself, but immersing her within this damaged family gives the reader food for thought. Who knows if this would be a different story, or an alternative narrative if those who were meant to help and guide her had concentrated more on Milly than on themselves?
Ali Land is a talented, imaginative author, this is certainly going to be one of THE books of 2017.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.
After graduating from university with a degree in Mental Health, Ali Land spent a decade working as a Child and Adolescent
Mental Health Nurse in both hospitals and schools in the UK and Australia.
Ali is now a full-time writer and lives in West London
Follow her on Twitter @byAliLand