Fiction, Psychological Thriller

Good Me, Bad Me – Ali Land

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Wow. Wow. WOW. What an interesting and unique read centred around a young teenaged girl named Milly, and her ongoing battle throughout the book of dealing with the aftermath of turning her mom in for the murder of nine children. This book is chilling and really questions whether homicidal tendencies are the result of genetics or environment, and unfortunately for Milly, she’s got both working against her.

In the immediate aftermath of turning her mother in, Milly is temporarily placed in the home of a psychiatrist, Mike, and the rest of his family: his daughter, Phoebe, and his wife, Saskia, as Milly awaits her mother’s trial. Due to the nature of the crime, no one, aside from Mike, Saskia, and a few people at Milly’s school know her story. She’s been given a new name and Milly hopes to give herself a fresh start, though try not to look at her too closely or else you are sure to see her mother’s face reflected. Since Mike is usually the home for wayward children, and therefore spends a lot of time with the children placed in his care, Milly and Phoebe do not get along, which strains their already tumultuous relationship both at home and at school.

As the trial date looms, Milly struggles to reconcile what happened when she was with her mother and the blame she puts on herself; as much as she wishes she could hate her mother and what she did to her and the other children, the familial bond is strong and nearly impossible to break. How can she cope with testifying against her mother and what is going to happen to her when it is done?

This book was a great read, and it had me hooked from the very beginning. I’m a sucker for psychological thrillers, and this book hits all the high notes of one. It makes you think, makes you feel for the main character and what she is going through, and inevitably sucker punches you by the end.

I really like the way the dialogue is sometimes spoken within the book. It is included within the paragraphs, almost giving the book a diary-like feel to it; it also disjoints the reader, a kind of back and forth between the main character and whomever, like if you were standing right there watching them speak.

The rest of the novel is also written in this choppy, sort of disjointed way, which really had the effect of putting me on edge, anxiously awaiting what was going to happen next. For the most part, this was executed well, however there were times where I found myself checking the page number, because it felt as if nothing had happened for pages and pages. This is one of my few critiques of the book; the beginning and end I absolutely plowed through, could not get enough, but the middle tended to drag at times.

I both liked, and disliked, the way the adults in this book were portrayed. It made me feel like I was reading a YA book at times, because of how absolutely oblivious the adults were, especially at school. There are numerous occasions in the book where teachers overlook the extreme bullying that Milly is experiencing. And then seem shocked at the repercussions. The biggest perpetrator of this though is Mike. He even expresses shock when he learns later that Milly and Phoebe have not been getting along. Like…??? It happens right in front of his face. I dislike this, just because it seems unrealistic that not one teacher or parental figure would notice what was happening, but I also really like it too because it shows, yet again, that everyone is failing this poor girl.

My only other gripe with this book is how the ‘twists’ were portrayed. I’m not sure if it was just me, but I had correctly assumed what was going to be happening early in the book. Even the ending, which was AMAZING, did not shock me. I almost wish Ali Land had taken it further. Overall though, this book is incredibly well written, well characterized, and accomplished that feeling of anxiety in a way I’ve never experienced in a book. I gave this book 3.75 out of 5, only because of the few issues I highlighted above. I definitely recommend this for the thriller lover in you!

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Fantasy, LGBT+, Young Adult

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

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“I am going to die kissing Simon Snow. Aleister Crowley, I’m living a charmed life.”

 I had heard about this book through BookTube, and other various media platforms and knew that since I had read previous books from Rainbow Rowell, that I would probably come to love this one as well. And I wasn’t wrong. Carry On is able to walk the fine line between tropes, as well as throwing in some amazing homages to the likes of Harry Potter and satirical nods to our favourite books such as Twilight. “I know what you are“… yes I bet you do, Simon.

I found this book so cute and the relationships between Simon, Baz, Penny, and Agatha to be absolutely realistic and mesmerizing. It made me laugh, it made me sad, and it made me cheer for these young people on their quest to solve a murder, and a growing threat from an unknown power, the Humdrum.

The nod to Harry Potter was subtle and gave me just enough of a nostalgia kick without going overboard. And as a self-professed lover of fanfiction (*ahem*and writer of it*ahem*), I loved the cute tropes that are present and beloved in some of the best fanfiction out there. ‘The Chosen One’ – trope, for example, is not one that I usually gravitate towards but I loved the twist on it, and the story that accompanied how the chosen one was meant to be.

Also, rarely do we see LGBT+ characters in mainstream novels, and I am so glad to have found one that aims to bring these lovely characters into the spotlight. I would have preferred a bit more information delving into the characters complex backgrounds and upbringings (specifically Simon), and his growing acceptance of his own fluid sexuality, but the discussion is good to have and I’m glad to see this in more mainstream media as the years go by.

My only gripe with the novel, is that I would have loved a more detailed description of the actual school itself. I always loved reading about Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and the classes that they went to. I am also aware that this is one book, instead of seven, and so some background needed to be cut in order to focus more on the characters and their interactions.

I loved this book, and gave it 4.5 stars. Any suggestions for books that are similar to this, feel free to let me know!