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Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

BOTTOM LINE: Chilling but fascinating

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publication Date: 5 September 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“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.”

My Thoughts: Psychological traumas involving serial killers remain popular because they allow everyday people a glimpse into a mind vastly different (one hopes) from their own. We are voyeurs into the criminal mind as they rationalize their behavior. In Good Me Bad Me, we don’t get to see into a serial killer’s mind but rather into one of her victims. Milly is not just any victim though. She is the killer’s daughter, having been raised and abused by her for her entire 17 years. Moreover, she is also the person who reports her mother to the authorities.

There is so much going on with Milly that it is difficult to know where to start, and that is what makes the novel so compelling. Milly is not just another seventeen-year-old trying to find her place in high school society. She also has to deal with the life-long trauma from living with her abusive and deadly mother. If that is not enough, she must also come to gripes with the guilt she feels at turning the police on to her mother and being the cause of her incarceration. She is dealing with a little bit of Stockholm syndrome as well as survivors’ guilt on top of life as a teenager and life as an abuse victim. As we get to understand Milly a bit more, our feelings for her shift from pity to empathy to concern to horror and back again, with the emotional roller coaster getting even bumpier once we realize how indoctrinated her mother’s teachings have become. Milly is unsettling; she resists therapy and longs for her mother’s approval. Yet, she also wants a friend and someone to love her unconditionally. That neediness allows you to push aside the discomfort created by her thoughts and root for her to obtain her version of a happy ending.

Good Me Bad Me hits all the right notes as a psychological thriller. From a psychological standpoint, there is a bonanza of trauma, teenager angst, and guilt that plagues our hapless heroine at any given time. Trying to discern the damage from normal teenage emotions is a challenge and adds yet another layer to this already complex character. Adding to everything is the Mean Girls-esque story line that arises once Milly starts her new school. All of this combines to create a dark and disturbing story in which very little is what it seems. The chilling note at the end caps an intense ride into the mind of serial killer’s victim and her struggle for normalcy.

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