Bad Fruit by Ella King

Bad Fruit is a dark thriller about a family hiding what is rotten within, set in the leafy streets of Greenwich. Lily is seventeen, almost off to Oxford, but she’s also her mother’s perfect doll, made up to look just right and wearing just what her mother wants. Lily brings her mother spoilt orange juice and cooks recipes from her mother’s childhood that her father wouldn’t make, but it’s so quick for her mother to change from love to hate, and maybe Lily can’t remember exactly what happened with her and her family when she was younger. As memories come back, Lily starts to realise that being the perfect daughter isn’t going to work, so she’s going to have to become something else.

With Lily and her mama so vividly painted from the start, Bad Fruit quickly grips you, unfolding a complex family dynamic and a girl starting to question what she thought she knew. You know something is up, but King withholds details, slowly revealing the narrative in a classic literary thriller way. What I found particularly compelling, however, was the complex morality and characterisation, particular of Lily’s siblings, whose childhoods and interactions with the family are similar and yet very different to Lily. The first person narration means that you’re never quite sure what her siblings might be hiding from her, or whether her picture and judgement of them is clouded, and the same goes for her parents, particularly her father. Even by the end of the book, the family dynamic is still not quite unravelled, showing how sometimes there aren’t easy answers.

Layered and hard to put down, Bad Fruit explores trauma and family through a thriller lens that asks who might snap first. I enjoyed the Greenwich setting and the complexity of race and culture in the book, and found the perspective of Lily a very interesting one, especially in terms of how her childhood has impacted things like her ability to know what she likes or make choices.