Review: The Torturer's Daughter by Zoe Cannon


Title: The Torturer's Daughter 
Author: Zoe Cannon
Date of publication: 11 December 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia

My rating: 4 stars

Goodreads Blurb

When her best friend Heather calls in the middle of the night, Becca assumes it's the usual drama. Wrong. Heather's parents have been arrested as dissidents - and Becca's mother, the dystopian regime's most infamous torturer, has already executed them for their crimes against the state.

To stop Heather from getting herself killed trying to prove her parents' innocence, Becca hunts for proof of their guilt. She doesn't expect to find evidence that leaves her questioning everything she thought she knew about the dissidents... and about her mother.

When she risks her life to save a dissident, she learns her mother isn't the only one with secrets - and the plot she uncovers will threaten the lives of the people she loves most. For Becca, it's no longer just a choice between risking execution and ignoring the regime's crimes; she has to decide whose life to save and whose to sacrifice.

It's easy to be a hero when you can save the world, but what about when all you can do is choose how you live in it? THE TORTURER'S DAUGHTER is a story about ordinary teenage life amidst the realities of living under an oppressive regime... and the extraordinary courage it takes to do what's right in a world gone wrong.

My Review

I received an ARC of this book by the author through the Goodreads group Shut Up and Read in exchange for a review.

This book started rather slow for me. The beginning was too high school gossip and drama. It took me a while to get fully involved in the story. My main difficulty came from the story being told from 3rd person. Sometimes I needed to go back and re-read to be clear whether 'she'it was Becca or Heather. Gradually, though, I got used to the writing style of the author and started enjoying th story much more. 

Initially, I expected there to come a more detailed world building and when it did not happen I realised that this is not what is important in this story. There is not need for detailed descriptions of the world/society. Becca's thoughts and emotions are enough to present the world the characters live in. The focus in this book is on the inner turmoil and changes all the characters undergo and mostly, as the title says, the complexity of Becca being the torturer's daughter. 

I think that all the characters, main and supporting, are very complex and well developed. The author presented very convincingly the reality of a totalitarian society where everybody monitors and reports on the others, where you can be considered a dissident just because someone says so. 

I liked the complex relationships Becca has with the people around her - her mother, her best friend Heather, Jake. 

The book read like a 3-star rating for me up until the last quarter. The test Becca is put to and her ultimate decisions make the book stand out. I really liked the ending and could relate to what happened with all the characters, except for Jake. The fate the author chose for him still puzzles me and makes me sad. I see him fitting well into the story, yet the romantic in me wishes for a more positive development of this line of the plot. 

In short, I would say that this a really moving and emotional dystopian story told from an young adult point of view. Yet the issues and messages in this novel sound rather adult and contemporary (and unfortunately, too realistic) to me.

On her website the author shared that there will be a sequel to this book. I will be checking it, as well.

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