Publisher: Harvill Secker.
Hardcover, 400 pages.
Release date: August 7th 2014.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
'As soon as they processed my release Noah and I hit the ground running. A change of clothes. A wig. An inconspicuous sedan. We doubled back once, twice, then drove south when we were really headed east. In San Francisco we had a girl who looked like me board a plane to Hawaii.
Oh, I thought I was so clever.
But you probably already know that I'm not.'
LA It girl Janie Jenkins has it all. The looks, the brains, the connections. The criminal record.
Ten years ago, in a trial that transfixed America, Janie was convicted of murdering her mother. Now she's been released on a technicality she's determined to unravel the mystery of her mother's last words, words that send her to a tiny town in the very back of beyond. But with the whole of America's media on her tail, convinced she's literally got away with murder, she has to do everything she can to throw her pursuers off the scent.
She knows she really didn't like her mother. Could she have killed her?
Billed as ‘Gone Girl meets Mean Girls’ Dear Daughter, Elizabeth Little’s fiction debut introduces Janie Jenkins, a former Hollywood IT girl who, age seventeen, was jailed for her mother’s brutal murder. Ten years later, Janie is free on a technicality, but the world at large still believes her to be a cold-blooded killer. With the media - led by a blogger who is out for Janie’s blood- on her trail, Janie’s re-integration into society was never going to be easy. In fact, it’s impossible for Janie to live any kind of normal life at all. Then again, Janie Jenkins never wanted to be normal; what she wanted was notoriety – and she got that in spades. Janie’s memories of the night her mother died are hazy, but she’s sure there’s more to the story than meets the eye. While Janie pretty much hated her mother, she’s just not sure she’s capable of murder.
Then again, maybe she is.
I first read the blurb for Dear Daughter back in May of last year when the rights sold, and ever since then it’s been sitting pretty right at the very top of my wish list. Give me something that promises the new Gone Girl, and I am all over it. Unfortunately while I’ve read a whole lot of ‘next Gone Girls’ I’ve yet to find one that measures up to the dark, twisty brilliance of Gillian Flynn’s mega-hit. Dear Daughter has a lot of great selling points; it is stylish and scandalous, the writing is stellar, and, as anti-heroines go, Little has hit the jackpot with Janie Jenkins: smart, quick-witted and with an acid tongue, Janie has a perfectly cutting answer for everything thrown her way. Dear Daughter is a page-turner too; you’ll want to read it in one-sitting. But where Dear Daughter all falls down is in its conclusion, which, in contrast to the dark edge-of-you-seat tone of the book, is all a little rushed and formulaic, even light-hearted and comedic at times. Less Gone Girl then, more Murder She Wrote.
Dear Daughter is a smart read, but, I fear not as smart as it likes to think it is: a little bit like Janie herself. A certain amount of suspension of disbelief is needed for true enjoyment of this book, because certain elements of Janie’s tale just don’t add up, especially when her search into the truth about her mother’s murder leads her to an isolated small Twin Peaks-esque town where everyone has a secret. I guess I can’t go into detail here because then I’ll be delving deep into spoiler territory, but there were elements of this story that didn’t work for me; the plot seemed to be tightly woven at first, but if I took a second to question it, then it unravelled. So, my best advice here is to not question too much- just go with it and enjoy the ride. Enjoy Janie. Enjoy the cryptic clues and the strange small town. And enjoy trying to figure out the mystery of it all.
Ultimately, while Dear Daughter won’t be making my end-of-year favourites list, it is possibly one of the best written debuts I’ve read in a while. I loved Little’s style and voice, and certainly look forward to reading more from her in the future. I felt like Dear Daughter needed a bigger twist; something really dark right at the end to astonish me and leave me dumbfounded. It doesn’t have that, but it does have a whole lot more to savour and enjoy. Check it out if you enjoyed Gone Girl or Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight.