Good Me, Bad Me
By Ali Land
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...
The book begins with this very appropriate quote by Cason McCullers: “But the hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes.”
Annie’s mother has just been arrested and is awaiting trial as a serial killer and Annie was the one who turned her in to police. “Disbelief at first. Then the stained dungarees I pulled from my bag. Tiny.
The teddy bear on the front peppered red with blood. I could have brought more, so many to choose from she never knew I kept them. “
Now Annie has been placed with a new family and given a new identity, ‘Milly’. Milly is living with Mike, Saskia and Phoebe as a temporary measure. Mike and Saskia have are aware of her history but Phoebe is kept in the dark and is resentful because Mike had previously promised her that there would be no new foster children placed with them. Phoebe’s resentment is made obvious from the beginning and grows over the weeks Milly lives with them. “She and I walked upstairs together. Looks like you’re settling in nicely, doesn’t it, she said to me. Enjoy it while it lasts, you won’t be here that long, no one ever is.”
Throughout the book Milly is torn by feelings of guilt over turning her mother into the police and also for not doing it sooner. She is also worrying about whether she is going to turn out like her mother or whether she would be blamed by people if they knew who she was. “I long to hear the words: ‘I’ll never let anything happen to you’ or ‘it wasn’t her fault, she was only a child.’ Yes those are the kinds of dreams I have.”
She also has to adjust to a new way of living and to learn the social norms that everyone else lives by, “New name. New family. Shiny New me.”
As the book progresses we learn more about Milly's mother and the ‘games’ she used to play with her. “The playground. That’s what you called it. Where the games were evil, and there was only ever one winner. When it wasn’t my turn, you made me watch. A peephole in the wall.”
There were many passages in this book I found quite disturbing to read, not least her mother’s plans for her sixteenth birthday. “Sweet sixteen, mine. It’s not until December though you began planning it months ago, but not in the way a mother should. A birthday you’ll never forget, you said. Or survive, I remember thinking. Emails started to arrive from others you’d met. The dark belly of the internet. A short-list. Three men and a woman, you invited them to come, share in the fun. Share me.”
I found it interesting that a lot of the female characters in this book had some sort of personal troubles; Milly, her mother, Phoebe, Saskia and Milly's friend.
Milly is a slippery character, difficult to pull down because she is always playing a role. With her mum she was treading carefully trying not to become her next victim, in her new house she is trying to be the perfect house guest so she can stay. At school she is trying to act like just another foster kid so no one will know who her mother is. As Milly says “The reality is, most people can’t handle the truth, my truth.”
I think part of the reason I found this book so disturbing was that Milly’s mother is the antithesis of everything we are socialised into believing a mother and a nurse should be. This is illustrated by a conversation Milly's overhears in the hospital: “Never seen anything like it, one said, her own mother it was, and she’s a nurse would you believe. Yes, another replied, that’s why most of the injuries were never reported, dealt with at home, she’ll never be able to have kids, you know. You told me I should be thankful, you’d done me a favour. Children were nothing but trouble.”
In the novel the reader learns of a Native American tale in which a Cherokee tells his grandson: “there’s a battle between two wolves in all of us. One is evil, one is good. The boy asks him, which one wins? The Cherokee tells him, the one you feed.” This book is essentially Milly's struggle to determine which wolf will win and on my second read I noticed more clues as to who would win.
I read this book in just over a day and would certainly read it again.
Our Final Rating...
Read & Shared 238 Times.