Rating: 3 stars
Good Me Bad Me is dark, compelling, voice-driven psychological suspense by debut author Ali Land.
How far does the apple really fall from the tree?
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 enjoyed reading this book but was also disappointed with it at the same time. There are a lot of aspects of the book I really enjoyed. However, there was a lot left to be desired too.
What I loved about Good Me Bad Me was getting to see into the mind of a serial killer’s daughter. Getting to see how this trauma of witnessing her mother murdering children affected Milly’s life in her new home. When the story begins, you as the reader can’t help feeling sympathetic to Milly. She’s just a young girl after all who lives alone with her mother, whose story really tugs at your heart and makes you want to cheer her on as she adjusts to a new life that is full of complications of its own. Especially since you get to see into her thoughts and how she reacts to being bullied by Phoebe and her friends while she’s just trying to make it through each day before the trial that’ll forever cement her into her new life. I found this aspect of the story interesting, though Milly’s thought process wasn’t at all what I expected from her, but I understood that because I knew she went through something most girls her age never have to deal with.
I also like that the story is told from her perspective because it becomes apparent in the story that she’s an unreliable narrator. This becomes obvious close to the end of the story when certain truths are later revealed to you. Its also apparent because as the reader you observe her omitting information from other characters in the story because she believes she’s lying to them for their own good, though you as the reader already know exactly what’s going on.
Another thing I like about this book is the different subject matters this book talks about, despite not fully talking about these things in the story. This story talks about things such as cutting, bullying, suicide, abuse, psychology, alcoholism, rape, trauma, and cheating. But somewhat does it in a way that as a reader makes you think about what’s happening in the story even though we’re only hearing about all these details from Milly’s perspective. These different topics add interesting layers to this story and make you as the reader deeply think about what’s happening. Make you question what you think you know and what you think will happen in the story.
But, there’s also a lot of fault that can be found in Good Me Bad Me too. For starters, there are a lot of characters that are hard to like. I especially had a hard time liking Phoebe because she’s such a bitch throughout and Phoebe’s mother Saskia wasn’t very likable either. In general, I didn’t like the whole family Milly stayed with because I felt like the parents were clueless to the bullying Milly endured and it seemed like despite the father Mike being an expert therapist, he seemed clueless about the problems going on in his own family. I liked Milly as a character because she had depth and was interesting to read about, but even she at times could be a little too whiny for my liking. Or acted in a way I didn’t expect her character to act. Even her mother who was a serial killer wasn’t much of a character in this story even though the whole book centered around her. You only get glimpses of her but we as readers never get to really see her character in the way Milly describes.
There were also parts of the plot I wasn’t overall pleased with either. I especially was disappointed with how the proceedings for the trial went. Milly made it out like there was going to be a showdown between her and her mother, but nothing of the sort happened. It was just a short court proceeding with very little conflict of significance. What happened in the trial with the one defense lawyer was the most interesting thing during the trial, but nothing became of it in a way that truly impacted Milly’s life or the outcome of the trial.
Another example with the plot that comes to mind for me has to do with Phoebe’s character and her treatment of Milly throughout the story. While I’m not fond of her character, I thought the way they made this conflict between the two of them go away didn’t add anything to the story. Yes, it was interesting and made me want to find out how this impacted their lives. But I felt like it was the easy way out instead of making the two of them have a conversation and attempt to resolve their differences. Or letting their conflict come to a head and seeing what exactly Phoebe was planning to do. Because while I hated Phoebe’s character and believe she got exactly what she deserved, I didn’t think that’s the way the story should’ve gone for her and Milly. I find that’s my biggest problem with the plot: there’s conflict, but its never talked about or fully resolved in a way I as a reader can appreciate. These two moments in the story, the trial and Phoebe, are two of many examples in this story that have conflict that gets solved in such a simple way it’s disappointing to me as a reader.
I also wasn’t fond of the decision Ali Land made with regards to the direction Milly’s character would go. I wouldn’t have minded it so much if Milly’s character overall acted that way throughout the book. But to me, I felt like her character did a complete turn in the opposite direction she was originally heading, and I wasn’t okay with it. While I understand why the story ended the way it did, I also felt like it wasn’t the right call because Milly’s character wasn’t like that through most of the story. I think part of my problem with it is because I was really rooting for Milly to be a better person, to make good decisions and not follow in her mother’s footsteps. This story made me believe she would turn her life around and do things for herself so that she could finally be happy and not have to deal with her mother’s shadow. It also doesn’t help that the story all a sudden ends and we never find out what happens next. We never get to find out whether Milly is going to stay with the family she considers home or if she’s going to be sent to a different home because of her problems.
So, while I enjoyed reading Good Me Bad Me, there’s a lot with this book I didn’t like too. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it, I just can’t say I enjoyed everything about it because there’s a lot in the story for me not to love. It was an interesting read though because of Milly’s character and perspective and because I found the subject matter interesting. I just can’t say though that it didn’t have any problems because for me, it did.