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• Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Ali Land wanted to become a mental health nurse from an early age because, as a thirteen-year-old, she was intrigued by unusual children. She fulfilled her dream by obtaining a university degree in children’s mental health and worked for ten years as a qualified child and adolescent mental health nurse in hospitals and schools in the UK and Australia.

One of Ali Land’s duties was to look after a fifteen-year-old girl, who did not want to continue living, being afraid of turning into a bad person like her mother, who severely injured young children. This experience influenced Ali Land with her novel’s fifteen-year-old main character, Milly, in Good Me Bad Me.

Ali Land said she needed to write this book to release the heavy psychological burden weighing on her. She said in one of her interviews: “I had nowhere else to go. My mind was full to bursting of the things that worried me, of the young people I’d looked after, and this burning desire to provoke discussion around how to care for children who had been damaged by their pasts”.

“My biggest fear when writing Good Me Bad Me was that readers wouldn’t feel compassion for my main character, Milly, that they would write her off as a child that couldn’t be helped. Of course, that risk remains very real, but by making a conscious decision to place her in a foster family that was, in its own way, toxic, I hope that I’ve managed to buffer the thought that there’s no hope for Milly and instead prompt readers to ask questions such as: But what if she’d been placed in a more appropriate setting? Where should children like Milly go? How can we look after them?”

It took Ali Land thirty years to dedicate herself fully to writing. Nevertheless, she worked part-time as a personal assistant nanny during the time she was writing her book. She now lives in west London.

Good Me Bad Me was published in 2017 and has been translated into several languages. It is her first novel to receive high praise as well as being Heat’s Best Book Of The Year, The Telegraph’s Crime Book Of The Year and The Sunday Times Best Seller.

The narrator of the story is the fifteen-year-old protagonist, Annie Thompson, who is given a new identity and becomes Milly after her psychopath mother is jailed. Annie, wanting to stop her mother’s serial killing, denounces her to the police for torturing and murdering nine little boys.

Meanwhile Milly is sheltered by her psychologist, Mike Newmont, awaiting being a witness in her mother’s upcoming trial. Mike Newmont was treating Milly as well as writing a book about her. She lived in his dysfunctional house with his destabilised, drug addict wife, Saskia, and his bullying, jealous, troubled daughter, Phoebe.

Milly’s mother is single, working as a nurse in a home. Outwardly she appears kind and caring so that the mothers in her care trust their children to her to have them adopted in the USA. But instead of sending the little boys for adoption, Annie’s mother tortured and murdered them while making her daughter watch through the keyhole.

The author keeps the emotional strain until the end with an unexpected twist revealing that Milly is no angel either and when given a choice, chooses the violent solution, her mind having been damaged and corrupted by her mother since her childhood. Milly nevertheless convinces all those around her that she is a victim while being very secretive about her dark plans. Presumably, she has been more affected by her mother’s evil deeds than those around her envisaged.

Good Me Bad Me is a compelling, as well as a thought-provoking novel. It is slow going, disturbing, heavy and dark. It is a psychological character-based story of a teenage girl, unable to escape from her past. She is in constant conflict between good and evil and her persistent worries about the unknown area of the unexplored and unapparent effect of genetics on her.

The reader cannot help feeling the girl’s suffering and her unbearably tormented soul. Her wanting to break free from her overpowering serial killer mother, while at the same time still loving and yearning for her company to the extent of having a constant imaginary conversation with her.

Notwithstanding all the horrible things her mother committed, as well as what she did to her and put her through from an early age, including sexually assaulting her and the psychological, distressing damage she caused her by twisting and perverting her, Milly cannot help feeling guilty for betraying her mother who seems to continue holding a firm emotional, influential grasp on her.

Good Me Bad Me is well written with skillfully developed characters. It is compelling as well as a thought-provoking novel exploring the concealed twisted and complicated side of the human psyche. It is slow going, disturbing, heavy and dark with extremely gruesome parts. It is a psychological character-based story of a teenage girl who is not able to escape from her past. She is in constant conflict between good and evil and her persistent worries about the unknown field of the unexplored and unapparent effect of genetics on her.

Category: Book Reviews
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