“In 2003, sixteen-year-old Rebecca Winter disappeared.
She’d been enjoying her summer break: working at a fast-food restaurant, crushing on an older boy and shoplifting with her best friend. Mysteriously ominous things began to happen—a presence in her room at night, periods of blackouts, a feeling of being watched—though Bec remained oblivious of what was to come.
Eleven years later she is replaced.
A young woman, desperate after being arrested, claims to be the decade-missing Bec.
Soon the impostor is living Bec’s life. Sleeping in her bed. Hugging her mother and father. Learning her best friends’ names. Playing with her little brothers.
But Bec’s welcoming family and enthusiastic friends are not quite as they seem. As the impostor dodges the detective investigating her case, she begins to delve into the life of the real Bec Winter—and soon realizes that whoever took Bec is still at large, and that she is in imminent danger.”
My Thoughts: Only Daughter should not be a book that you enjoy. After all, missing teens always make for an emotionally tough subject matter. Then, Ms. Snoekstra compounds that by having someone pretend to be the missing person, which is pretty despicable no matter how you look at it. A funny thing happens though as you turn the pages of this mystery, and the story becomes a lot more involved than you ever expect.
There is a section early on in the book where two cops are describing our Imposter Bec; it is the type of description that sticks with you more than anything else because everyone knows someone like this. Impostor Bec is the type of person who is constantly assessing her audience, gauging their reactions in order to adjust her own behavior according to the type of person she wants them to think she is. She is coldly calculating and always acting out a persona. This allows you to keep your emotional distance from her and condemn her for her actions that are only designed to save her from a stint in jail.
However, as is so often the case, what you see initially is so very often the full story. With Impostor Bec, this is also true. There are reasons she feels the need to play roles rather than to be herself. Unfortunately, Ms. Snoekstra fails to explore these reasons in detail. The few glimpses we get are intriguing and explain some of the longing Impostor Bec feels. They also help her become a somewhat more sympathetic character than we previously expected.
The rest of the novel is somewhat formulaic but still interesting and suspenseful. Impostor Bec continues to think she is the smartest person alive, manipulating situations and people in order to be able to prevent her plethora of lies from seeing the light of day. She realizes that the situation in which she finds herself may be a bit more than she can handle at the same time she realizes just how cruel she is being to Real Bec’s family and friends. As she battles her guilty conscience, she also finds herself trying to solve Real Bec’s disappearance in order to prevent the same thing from happening to her.
The biggest weakness within Only Daughter is the fact that we never truly get to understand Impostor Bec or the reasons for her actions. There is an attempt made to help us do so, but the attempt is lacking, making her reasoning feel trite and nothing but the pique of a teenager. While she does become sympathetic, she never really becomes a fully developed character. The reader never cares what happens to her so much as they want to find out what happened to Real Bec. In fact, it is Real Bec’s story that is the main point of interest.
There is an ominous undertone to the novel that fuels the story and creates the tension that keeps you reading. It is the instinctual knowledge that something is not right in Real Bec’s world. It is also a question of whether anyone is going to discover Impostor Bec with her lies. The story resolves with a satisfactory, albeit somewhat far-fetched, ending. In spite of its limitations, Only Daughter is a surprisingly intense read with a mystery that will at the very least entertain you.