Daughter is a book about a girl, Scarlet, who finds out her father is a convicted serial killer. Her mother changed their names and hid them away from any connections to their previous life, all without Scarlet knowing. Her father is dying of pancreatic cancer and has agreed to give names of unknown victims to Scarlet and Scarlet only. Practically overnight, Scarlet’s life changes wildly as she uncovers more about her past.
Overall, this book was enjoyable. I really enjoyed how it makes you take a long look at the cult following of serial killers and how the killers always get much more attention than the victims do. It definitely raises an important issue and makes you think more about it, even though it’s only in a fictional setting with fictional victims. Why doesn’t anyone remember the names of Ted Bundy’s victims? The Golden State Killer? Ed Kemper? We know the names, and usually the stories, of the killers but hardly ever the victims. This story does a good job of taking a long look at the phenomenon of the serial killer and how the victims should take precedence.
Another thing I liked about this book was that it is much more character-driven than plot-driven. However, that’s a personal preference and I definitely understand that not all readers will find it enjoyable for that reason. (Yet it does seem realistic, story-wise, because a teenage girl is really not going to be allowed to be that involved in a serial killer’s case.) Scarlet finds her inner strength and, as she puts it at one point, learns to lean into the fight part of the fight-or-flight response. Scarlet is a strong character who starts off afraid, a bit fickle, and uncertain of herself. She compares herself to her friends and describes herself as the average one of the bunch. But by the end of the book, she is much more sure of her place in the world, even though it has been defined by who her father is.
This story is also relatively well-written and does a good job with descriptions of the murders without being too gory. There is also a romantic side plot that is refreshing against the backdrop of murder. I also enjoy that many of the chapters begin with fake news articles, psychology papers, letters to the editor, etc. It adds a realistic element to the story and makes Lake (the serial killer) seem to have a far-reaching effect on things like a real serial killer would. These articles, etc, make Lake seem like an actual, real-life killer like Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer. McLaughlin does a good job of using smaller details like this to really add to the realism of the story.
One of the main things I did not like about this book is that the dialogue (inner and between characters) can be pretty….cringey. There are certain phrases, like “hawt” or “oh my gawd” or “he’s mad AF,” that really bring you out of the story. I understand that I’m an adult reading a YA book, but it still seems like these slang terms don’t quite fit in with the rest of the story. This could just be a personal preference, though.
Another thing I didn’t like is that the story really doesn’t have much of a plot. The majority of the story is just Scarlet talking with her father, and dealing with the fallout of learning that she has a serial killer for a father. No spoilers, but not much else happens. But the lack of a plot does add further depth to the development of the characters, mainly those of Scarlet and her mother.
Overall, if you’re a fan of both YA and true crime-type stories, you would enjoy this book. It’s a solid character study on what exactly it would be like to find out that your father is a serial killer, and what it would be like to meet him.