Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land is not a comfortable read. It's a compulsive, read-through-the-night-while-drinking-all-the-hot-chocolate read. But isn't that what you want from a thriller?
I have been on a steady diet of psychological thrillers while finishing up the edits to my own. Usually I tear through them and forget the plot (and even the title) entirely. But Good Me Bad Me has stuck for a number of reasons:
A fresh twist on the cat and mouse plot
I believe that readers are becoming numb to the husband vs wife psychological thriller. The couple always has it all. There is always something darker that lurks beneath the surface. Good Me Bad Me is about the tension between a mother and daughter with an extremely broken, peculiar relationship. The narrator Milly Barnes turns her mother into the police after years of watching her abuse and kill young children. The story unfolds as she awaits facing her mother one more time at the trial.
While the crimes Milly's mother commits are horrific, there is a different kind of tension that plays out at Milly's new school. Like any survivor of abuse, she is slightly different and unable to fit in. This is exploited to disturbing proportions by Milly's new foster sister.
Each character has a clear motive for their actions. This is important, because many thrillers forsake genuine character building for a quickly progressing plot. I often feel like I have read the same embattled female protagonist over and over again! Milly is a clear protagonist, and I always felt on her side, but there is no doubt that her abusive childhood has left irreparable damage. This manifests itself in many strange ways, the most subtle of which I found the most distressing.
A strong message
Many psychological thrillers trot out the same, cynical message. Yet the psychology aspect of a thriller gives writers an amazing opportunity to explore contemporary themes in a plot-driven setting. Good Me Bad Me is ultimately an examination of what happens when a child is exposed to chronic abuse at the hands of a parent or guardian. A quick note here - while this sounds incredibly upsetting, Ali Land often only infers abuse and doesn't describe it outright (Books like Daddy Love by Joyce Carol Oates are far more traumatising in that regard - stay away from that one!). Here, the horror bristles in the unsaid.
If you're interested in buying Good Me Bad Me, you can find it here.