The Mud and Stars Book Blog

thoughts from a girl who spends her days in other worlds…

Psychological thriller: ‘Good Me Bad Me’ by Ali Land (ARC book review)

on March 16, 2017


Good Me Bad Me. Ali Land. Michael Joseph. January 2017.


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…

Thank you to Netgalley and Michael Joseph for providing me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Trigger warning: child abuse, self harm

You know the sick-to-the-stomach feeling you get when you read about some really horrific crime in the newspaper? This is the feeling I had all the way through reading this book.. It was a very uncomfortable reading experience, and whilst I cannot deny that it is a good book (I rated it 4 stars), I’m not sure ‘enjoyed’ would be an accurate way to describe how I felt about it.

When I requested this book, I had no idea that it had anything to do with child abuse. It turns out, the entire plot revolves around it! The blurb doesn’t mention the fact that the serial killer mum’s victims are all children, and I have to admit, I probably would not have requested the book if I had known. However, I’m glad I left my comfort zone and gave this book a go, because these things do happen in real life, and the stories of those victims do need to be told. This book, in my opinion, does an excellent job of portraying them (although of course, having never experienced abuse myself, I cannot testify as to whether this is a truthful and accurate representation.)

This was a very well written book. A real strength of the writing was that the descriptions of abuse and violence were never gratuitous – things are always implied, rather than painted explicitly, but these parts were always so cleverly done that I knew EXACTLY what was being implied every time, and the pictures my imagination conjured up were horrific enough.

The narrator of this book – Annie (or Milly, as she is renamed when she moves in with her foster family) – was such a psychologically complex character. I think Ali Land did a fabulous job of portraying a survivor of child abuse, and the confused, conflicting emotions she battles with daily – her disgust and fear over what her mum has done, as well as the love she stills feels for her mum, and her deep-seated need to defend her, impress her, and become the person she raised her to be.

I think the most interesting thing about this book was the way it explored how our upbringing can damage us – how we learn from the examples we are set, and the boundaries we are given. I found a lot of Milly’s behaviour in this book very worrying; I felt she was missing certain qualities, such as empathy, that she might have developed if only she’d come from a stable and loving home, and she had no clue about boundaries when it came to her interactions with other people. It was disturbing to see the way her brain worked, yet, at the same time, terribly sad.  I was rooting for Milly, but, at the same time, praying someone would stop her before she went too far.

This book isn’t action packed, and it isn’t full of twists and turns, but I couldn’t put it down, because it was so interesting to see the way Milly’s character developed as her mother’s trial date loomed nearer. Although Milly’s mother is physically absent from Milly’s life, because she’s in prison, she is a huge, domineering presence in the story, and Milly remains under her manipulative influence; her mother is present in her every thought and action. The way Milly interacted with her mother in her head was one of the most fascinating aspects of the story, and the way this relationship was portrayed was very powerful.

The ending of this book didn’t shock me, because I saw it coming, but I did find it unsettling, and that’s something I appreciate in a psychological thriller. I was, however, left with a rather desolate feeling, which I experienced pretty relentlessly throughout the rest of the book as well. I had to reach for something light and fluffy as soon as I had finished it!

If you like books with complex characters and complex relationships, which leave you feeling all kinds of disturbed, I highly recommend this book. It’s a well-crafted story, and even though it made me feel pretty sick at some of the things that happen in this world, I’m still glad I had the opportunity to read it, as it was so well executed.


4 responses to “Psychological thriller: ‘Good Me Bad Me’ by Ali Land (ARC book review)

  1. Great review. I keep wanting to say I really enjoyed this book but as you say it’s not really the right word to describe how it makes you feel. Uncomfortable, disturbing but also addictive. I didn’t want to read any more at times but couldn’t look away.

  2. Ah completely understand the kind of books that you don’t enjoy, even if they were good. This sounds like it was done really well. It might be a bit too disturbing for me at the minute- I think it’s one of those books you have to build up to, so while I won’t be reading this right away, I’ll definitely consider it in the future. Great review!

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