Good Me, Bad Me is one of those propulsive thrillers you can’t put down, even though you ask, “Why am I reading this?” It is Ali Land’s debut novel and succeeds at drawing readers in and never letting go.
It begins cryptically, narrated in the first person by a young teen named Millie asking to be forgiven for telling. It soon becomes clear that she is talking to her mother, who has been arrested after Millie went to the police and exposed her as a serial murderer. She is now living with a foster family while preparing to testify at her mother’s trial. The family has fostered many children over the years and Mike, the father, is a mental health professional. His wife, Saskia, seems troubled and their daughter Phoebe is resentful of yet one more problem child to take their attention away from her.
Millie has spent her lifetime appearing calm and normal on the surface while hiding secrets underneath and it would be naive to think that changed after she turned her mother in. She still keeps her secrets and some are quite terrifying. Some are more mundane, such as never telling Mike and Saskia how Phoebe torments and bullies her in school.
Good Me, Bad Me asks what happens to a child raised by an abusive, murderous mother. Land asks how elements of nature and nurture will influence Millie and whether she will choose good or bad. For Millie, she wonders if she even has a choice.
I thought the story was well-paced and engrossing, though I was not surprised by Millie’s secrets, not even her final secret. Those events did follow naturally from her revealed character. It may seem strange that Mike, a professional in mental health, would be oblivious to his daughter’s pain and his wife’s addictions, but there is a reason “Physician, heal thyself.” is a quote nearly everyone knows. Phoebe is the shoemaker’s daughter…and while she seems flat compared to the other characters, her circumstance seems realistic.
This is an entertaining, fast-paced thriller and many people will enjoy it a lot. I keep telling myself I am not going to read another “bad seed” book, but you know, when they are this much entertainment, I can’t seem to stop myself.
Good Me, Bad Me will be released September 5th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.