Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

I heard the author, Ali Land, being interviewed on BBC radio 4. She was talking about her background as a child and adolescent mental health nurse and how she has drawn on her experiences to write this book. I was initially attracted to reading Good Me, Bad Me because I thought it would be fascinating to see through the eyes of an experienced mental health professional, but I must admit I wasn’t expecting too much from either the story line or the writing style. I was wrong. On every level this is a brilliant, brilliant book. 

‘New name. New family. Shiny. New. Me.’

The narrator is a 15-year-old girl called Annie, she is also known as Milly. This is the name she is given to protect her identity. Her mother is a serial killer who is awaiting trial. Annie/Milly was the one who went to inform the police about her mother. She has been placed with a foster family while she is undergoing psychiatric treatment and waiting to testify at her mother’s trial.

The story unfolds within the setting of Milly/Annie’s new life. Her previous life with her mother reveals itself slowly with occasional, tantalising but horrific glimpses into the past. Her life within the foster family dynamic is equally fascinating.

The characters in this book are totally convincing. They are all beautifully observed and three-dimensional. I vacillated between feeling desperately sorry for Annie/Milly to feeling positively unnerved by her. She is extremely intelligent and perceptive, and she uses these characteristics  well to her advantage.

What keeps you guessing throughout this book is whether the girl is, like her mother, a psychopath. And if she is, how this will reveal itself. A psychopath has no conscience and a conscience informs our behaviour,  but even without it we still have freedom of choice. What will her choice be?

This book is astonishing. It is superbly crafted, masterfully written. The story line is gripping and unique,  I couldn’t put it down and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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