Published March 8, 2022
Scarlet’s life is pretty average. Overly protective mom. Great friends. Cute boy she’s interested in. And a father she’s never known – until she does.
When the FBI show up at Scarlet’s door, she is shocked to learn her father is infamous serial killer Jeffrey Robert Lake. And now, he’s dying and will only give the names and locations of his remaining victims to the one person, the daughter he hasn’t seen since she was a baby.
Scarlet’s mother has tried to protect her from Lake’s horrifying legacy, but there’s no way they can escape the media firestorm that erupts when they come out of hiding. Or the people who blame Scarlet for her father’s choices. When trying to do the right thing puts her life in danger, Scarlet is faced with a choice – go back into hiding or make the world see her as more than a monster’s daughter.
Kate McLaughlin’s DAUGHTER is a novel about trying right deadly choices that were never yours to begin with.
The thing that appealed to me about this book is its core conflict: a girl discovers her dad is a serial killer, and she may be the only person who can get the names of some of his victims and therefore bring peace and closure to their families.
One of the things I liked is that the story explores what members of the public felt about Scarlet and her mom, and how difficult that was for them. People speculated whether her mom knew or was involved in Scarlet’s dad’s crimes. They judged her and sometimes treated her as an object of fascination for her closeness to a famous killer.
I also thought the character of Scarlet’s dad was complex and seemed on point with the little bit that I’ve seen or know about killers like Ted Bundy or Aileen Wuornos.
There are a couple things I deeply struggled with in reading this book, though.
Does the book deliver on its promise to honor murder victims?
First, while I really admire that the author approached the story wanting to bring attention to the girls not strictly as victims but as people in their own right. Scarlet herself goes on a journey of trying to figure out how to draw attention to the girls themselves rather than glorifying or focusing on their deaths. It reminded me of some of the things Courtney Summers said about writing her book SADIE.
I’m not sure that I think this book succeeds in that goal, though. There are news clippings that only mention the girls in terms of how they encountered the man who murdered them. Lots of scenes reference a movie made about the killer’s life and trial. There are lots of conversations that center around what he did and why he did it. What he got out of it. How he saw the women he victimized.
I liked the idea of the news clippings being included, but I think it would have supported the author’s goal more if they focused on the girls themselves or maybe were pieces written by their families or maybe things from the girls themselves? I don’t know. It seemed more like the moral of the story was that the girls deserve to be treated differently, but the story itself didn’t really model that because so much of the story is devoted to learning about what Scarlet’s dad did and why.
Why I Reviewed the Book
If you’re familiar with my blog, you might already be surprised to see that I reviewed this book at all. I think I was expecting something more along the lines of SADIE by Courtney Summers or THE ROW by J. R. Johansson. This book really pushed my limits as far as explicit violence and sexual trauma go. I almost never quit a book, but I came very close to quitting this one.
On the whole, I think this book really wasn’t for me. If you like stories that go up close to really dark topics, like serial killers and assault, then you may really enjoy this one.
Recommended for Ages 16 up.
Scarlet’s best friend is Korean American. A couple minor characters are lesbians.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used fairly frequently.
Kissing between boy and girl. References to sex. A couple of scenes explicitly depicting sex between a boy and girl.
Violent Content – Trigger/Content warning for sexual violence.
Multiple mentions of assault, rape, murder, and necrophilia. Some details of those events.
Multiple scenes show Scarlet and her friends smoking pot and drinking alcohol.
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