Bad Fruit

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Pub Date 18 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 8 Sep 2022

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‘Unforgettable’ RED – ‘Memorable’ OBSERVER – ‘A family overflowing with secrets’ LOUISE HARE – ‘Impossible to put down’ CHRIS WHITAKER – ‘Searing’ ELLE – ‘A chilling literary thriller’ GRAZIA

From hot new talent, Ella King, comes an unforgettable story about a family gone bad . . .


Every evening she pours Mama a glass of perfectly spoilt orange juice. She arranges the teddy bears on Mama’s quilt, she puts on her matching pink clothes. Anything to help put out the fire of Mama’s rage.


But Mama is becoming unpredictable, dangerous. And as she starts to unravel, so do the memories that Lily has kept locked away for so long.
She only wanted to be good, to help piece Mama back together. But as home truths creep out of the shadows, Lily must recast everything: what if her house isn’t a home – but a prison? What if Mama isn’t a protector – but a monster . . .


‘Disturbing, poignant and memorable all at once – an exploration of a very dark relationship between a daughter and her mother’ OBSERVER

‘A riveting novel exploring how family ties can both make us and break us’ RED

‘Beautiful, disturbing, impossible to put down. Bad Fruit heralds a seriously impressive new talent in Ella King’ CHRIS WHITAKER

‘Masterful in its evocation of the complexity of mother-daughter relationships . . . a writer to watch’ HARPER’S BAZAAR


‘Unforgettable’ RED – ‘Memorable’ OBSERVER – ‘A family overflowing with secrets’ LOUISE HARE – ‘Impossible to put down’ CHRIS WHITAKER – ‘Searing’ ELLE – ‘A chilling...

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ISBN 9780008476571
PRICE £8.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins for providing me with an ARC.

This book does deal with the subject of abuse and trauma, and although the subjects are covered with great care and obvious research this may be a trigger for some readers.

This book was more than just a thriller to me, it was about the characters, especially Lily and learning along with her. Ella King has done a wonderful job of building the story in a way that makes you feel like you are going at the same pace as Lily. Ella takes time to let you as a reader learn what the family dynamic is like and form your own questions on what has made the characters the way they are. The subjects of abuse, generational trauma and their effects are covered very well in my opinion and I felt like I truly learned something from reading this book.

The story builds to become one that you just can't stop reading. I was walking around the flat, feeding the cat, making my lunch, brushing my teeth and my Kindle was with me while I just had to keep reading.

I really enjoyed this book and I will definitely be recommending it to friends when it is released in August. I can't wait to see what Ella King writes next!

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It’s summer and 18 year old Lily is waiting to take up her place to study law at Oxford. In the meantime she is caught between her warring parents, well, her mother Mae is certainly at war. Lily is a mamas girl, she panders to her mothers every whim and some of those are extreme. Lily escapes to a bolthole she has created in the attic and as if the toxic atmosphere in the home isn’t bad enough she starts to have flashbacks which present a puzzling conundrum, who exactly is the bad fruit?

I like selecting debut novels mostly so you can spot who you think might be the next ‘big thing’ and an automatic author to read. I have a very strong feeling that Ella King will fall into that category. This is a very powerful, emotional and heartbreaking debut. Initially it seems to be darkly funny until it’s not. There are some scenes at the beginning that are entertaining and very visual but then you start to fully appreciate the lengths that have to be gone to in order to keep Mama Mae sweet. The impact she has seems to be like dynamite then you realise it’s nuclear with all the fallout. Lily‘s sister Julia is a Molotov cocktail and Lily is the UN peacekeeping force. A sense of fear, foreboding and impending doom begins to provide the storytelling and that builds in intensity and it’s palpable.

It’s excellent on the exhausting psychological and emotional toll within the household and there are some original metaphors to describe it. It’s equally fascinating on the psychology of the siblings and their fathers survival of all the toxicity, damage and control and it makes for riveting reading that is increasingly shocking as you begin to get a truer picture. The characterisation is excellent especially of Lily and the introduction of Lewis into the storytelling gives the reader hope of salvation for Lily. As it reaches a climax towards the end it’s heartbreaking, so tense the atmosphere can be cut with a knife and although it’s not an easy read you are transfixed. My jaw literally falls open on occasions with what ensues. The ending is exactly what you hope for.

Overall, this is an incredibly well written novel that has you full of questions from the start and you do get answers. The pace is pitched extremely well and I genuinely couldn’t put it down as this is a psychological thriller that has you in its grip throughout. Highly recommended.

With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Emma Pickard at HarperFiction for the opportunity to read this in return for an honest review.

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I have read an extensive number of psychological thrillers, and they don’t come more complex, more haunting, more disturbing, and yet so beautifully written than Bad Fruit. King’s debut novel (I’m still struggling to believe this masterpiece is a debut!) is utterly immersive. The toxicity drips off the page from the very first chapter! From the get go, you know something is a bit cray cray with this family.

It is a character driven novel at its finest. King shrouds you in intricate layers of deceit, lies, and some downright “What The Actual….?” moments as we explore the devastation of intergenerational trauma. Each family member is heartbreakingly damaged in their own way, and they all have such incredibly unhealthy symbiotic relationships. None more so than “mama’s girl, mama’s doll” Lily and her mother. My god, the mother! Let’s just take a moment to fully relish the utter volatility and dangerous nature of this woman! I mean, absolutely deranged! She brought such presence (and by presence, I mean staring a cobra directly in the face kinda presence). The way King brought her to life on the page is commendable.

Through such powerful prose, King brings a terrible sense of foreboding; through Lily’s increasing flashbacks we begin to piece together what happened in the past to cause such a devastatingly chaotic pot of simmering tension; a pot which finally just blows its lid clean off, scalding everything in its path!

As disturbing as the content of this novel was, Kings writing is an aesthetic masterpiece - a sensory feast!! Never have I read a book so dark, while so vividly colourful! The way King uses colour and food to create atmosphere and setting is downright genius. Ella King is certainly one to watch out for!

This book will resonate with me for some time and I am so grateful to Emma Pickard at Harper Fiction for the opportunity to read this and provide my personal thoughts.

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Bad Fruit blew me away with its powerful and absolutely immersive look at 17-year old Lily’s life. This psychological thriller explores a complex and dark family dynamic: what do you do if the most toxic relationships in your life are with your immediate family?

We meet Lily in the summer just before she’s due to start university, she’s secured a place at Oxford – her future looks bright. She lives with her parents in Greenwich, South-East London and has two older siblings: a sister, Julia and a brother, Jacob.

On the surface, Lily’s life looks idyllic but it soon becomes clear that it’s far from that, revealed to us through her unique coping techniques, including the safe space she creates in her attic bedroom: 'Here’s where I keep me, in this hole under the floorboards.'

Lily’s relationship with her mother is the crux of Bad Fruit. Her mother exerts an unhealthy amount of control over Lily, even forcing her to wear make-up and dye her hair black to look more like her, more Chinese: 'Despite everything Mama has done to bring out the Chinese in me, I remain resolutely myself, her whitest child.'

However, the foundations of their relationship are crumbling and we’re right there with Lily as she finds out exactly why…

There are some heart-wrenching, awkward and downright weird moments between Lily and her mother that mean you are obsessed with knowing what will happen next.

During this sticky summer, Lily starts to have disturbing hallucinations or flashbacks and she has to try and work out what’s real and what’s not and if her mother has been lying about her past.

The story also sees Lily develop a friendship with an older man, Lewis, who lives near her. On paper, this is the dangerous relationship but Ella King subverts what is expected when it comes this, heightening the impact of Lily’s relationships with her family.

Another really engaging thread to this book is Lily’s interest in etymology. As a parallel to exploring her own roots, Lily’s love of the origin of language is woven throughout by giving us lovely descriptions like this: 'The Latin root for ‘hallucinate’ is irresistibly beautiful, alucinari, something you would name a Victorian child.'

I just couldn’t stop reading Bad Fruit, there were more than a few moments where my heart was in my mouth and it’s been a while since I so desperately wanted things to turn out OK for the lead character – but Lily grasped my heart.

Bad Fruit is a truly memorable debut novel. A cleverly layered story of inherited trauma, a complex and damaged family dynamic, identity, trust, growth and a young woman understanding that the hardest thing she can do might just be the thing that saves her.

Highly emotive, sometimes shocking, sometimes uplifting and with a steady and sinister sense of tension that just won’t quit. I’m excited to read more from Ella King.

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Ella King won the Blue Pencil Agency pitch prize in 2019 with the first 500 words of her debut novel 'Bad Fruit', an accolade which I am pleased to say is supported by the absolute quality of the entire novel. The ability to launch a story in such a powerful way is just one of the reasons why King's novel is a stunning masterclass in writing a deeply affecting psychological thriller. Having finished this book several days ago, I find myself haunted and moved by the dark events King presents, the representation of intergenerational trauma and the power of memory both skilled and engrossing for the reader.

Without revealing too much, we view the story from the point of view of Lily, a girl about to go off to Oxford. She struggles with the idea of leaving her close relationship with her mother behind, particularly as we gradually see the twisted dependence between mother and daughter. Would Lily's 'mama' function without her daughter, her 'doll'? The 'Bad Fruit' of the title is not just the referring to the mother's taste for soured juice, but giving us a metaphorical insight into the impact parenting can have on the trajectory of children's lives from generation to generation. We are left wondering what really lies at the heart of this strange family and how any of them can escape the destructive cycle of dependence and anger we bear witness to.

The descriptions, of a sweaty, oppressive summer in Greenwich, juxtaposed against the cultural roots of Singapore, leap off the page. King balances the description with plot, the pace of revelation balanced perfectly throughout. This book is going to be devoured by readers who I know will find this dark, twisted tale equally as thrilling as I did. 5 stars,

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher who provided an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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When we first meet Lily, we see an obedient daughter who anticipates her mother’s every wish. She seems to dote on her in a way is surely not healthy. She prepares her food just the way she likes it, reorganises her wardrobe and soothes her when she is angry. But Mama is angry to often, and violent, and nasty. I’ve read a lot of thrillers featuring strained relationships between mothers and daughters, but this really is something else.

This dark, psychological thriller is a real page-turner. King’s characters are unbelievably complex, in ways that they don’t always understand themselves, and interactions within the family are unstable, stirring up an volatile cocktail of emotions and memories. This is an edgy, twisty thriller of the highest calibre. I really hope that Ella King is working on her next thriller - this is an author worth looking out for!

Thank you to Harper Fiction and NetGalley UK this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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