In 2003 Rebecca Winter is doing everything your typical teenager does at sixteen; slaving away at her first job, hanging out with friends and negotiating her way into the world of adulthood with shaky steps. Her family life is at best tolerable and she has no clear idea of what her life will be like even one year down the track. But she hopes that it will change for the better. Someone is either playing terrible tricks on her or her mind is doing that all on its own. That sensation of being watched is now almost ever constant. In 2014 in a desperate attempt to evade being formally arrested for shoplifting, a young woman with a startling resemblance to the missing teenager decides to impersonate Rebecca Winters. The aim is to buy herself some time to escape custody. It is only meant to be for a few days. But then it becomes a lot more than that.
ONLY DAUGHTER has two perspectives. The first is that of Bec Winter who disappeared in 2003 and the second is that of her current day doppleganger, a "homeless by choice" young woman. The imposter settles quickly into Bec's life with loving parents, two younger brothers and friends who have been mourning the loss of the vivacious sixteen year old version of Bec for over a decade. Was she really missed? Who knows the truth? It's the opportunistic and not malicious insertion into the Winter family by the imposter which makes this novel interesting. The imposter is someone outside of the circle who is observing them all with fresh and untainted eyes, making her own judgment calls and piecing together what the (still missing) Rebecca was really like. Yes, there is slippage in this read that may be due to editing in the attempt to make the setting more universal (ie American) or it may just simply be that the author felt like mixing things up i.e. Mom (us) and Mum (Australian). Little slips like these don't distract too much away from the moody endless summer/Puberty Blues feeling that ONLY DAUGHTER economically evokes; it's a very familiar (and oddly low-tech) setting/period that most young Australians will recognize; all of us have gone through those rites of passage such as the first menial job whilst still in high school, and battled through those tumultuous teenage relationships that are never built to last beyond our childhood. You'll nip through this novel in one or two sittings; it is not dragged down by the minutiae of a police investigation (though there is a detective still working the case) and the speed and ease in which young people live their responsibility-free lives is conveyed well. As the imposter increasingly becomes aware that she has stepped out of the proverbial frying pan into something much worse, the tension slowly builds. It does take an astonishingly long time for the imposter to realize that if she's around, and Bec isn't, there is possibly a killer still about - observing everyone and faking their personality just as much as the new Rebecca is too.