The next gut-punching, compulsively readable Kate McLaughlin novel, about a girl finding strength in not being alone.
When eighteen-year-old Dylan wakes up, she’s in an apartment she doesn’t recognize. The other people there seem to know her, but she doesn’t know them – not even the pretty, chiseled boy who tells her his name is Connor. A voice inside her head keeps saying that everything is okay, but Dylan can’t help but freak out. Especially when she borrows Connor’s phone to call home and realizes she’s been missing for three days.
Dylan has lost time before, but never like this.
Soon after, Dylan is diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, and must grapple not only with the many people currently crammed inside her head, but that a secret from her past so terrible she’s blocked it out has put them there. Her only distraction is a budding new relationship with Connor. But as she gets closer to finding out the truth, Dylan wonders: will it heal her or fracture her further?
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the eARC of this thoroughly researched and compelling novel centered around a young adult woman diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. I went into reading this book completely blind; having not even read the synopsis. All I knew is that I love Kate McLaughlin’s writing– having read ‘Daughter’ and ‘What Unbreakable Looks Like’ previously. To say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement: I love glances into mental disorders and have been interested in DID since watching United States of Tara as a teenager myself.
Kate has done a beautiful job bringing Dylan and her alters to life. When we first meet our protagonist, she is coming to at an unfamiliar place and realizes that she has lost three whole days with her last memory consisting of being at a coffee shop. This begins a journey to figure out why this has happened, and after some run-ins with people who know her face without her being able to reciprocate and other instances of time loss– Dylan is diagnosed with DID. She meets some of her alters: Lannie, Kaz, and Dali to name a few, and begins to understand that something terrible happened in her childhood to bring them all to life.
What follows is an absolutely chilling and heartbreaking voyage into Dylan’s mind to finally piece together what she’s been hiding from herself for years. Thankfully, she has an amazing support system, including her famous mother, her only best friend, and a boy named Connor that she met while she was not in control of her own body. This is a story of self-discovery, but also one of familial and romantic love, and the lengths we go to in order to protect ourselves and the ones we adore. Kate weaves a narrative that you will not be able to put down, and one that will give you new insight on DID itself. This novel is brilliant, and I’m so lucky to have gotten to experience it.
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.
Thank you so much to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for the invitation to read this chilling release from one of my favorite authors! I fell head over feet for Kate after reading an ARC of ‘What Unbreakable Looks Like’, and the raw emotion I found there did not relent in this reading experience. Kate knows exactly how to weave striking tales around sensitive subjects that others are either too afraid to touch, or are usually seen from a totally different perspective. This one, specifically, calls to those who have grown up watching true crime shows– but is a love letter and a release for the victims of said crimes. Even more than that; it puts a special spotlight on the ones who’ve survived and must carry the name with them. Daughter explores the weight someone else’s shadow can put on you.
The daughter in question is Scarlet Murphy, who– up until a duo of FBI agents show up– has been living a normal life. She is in high school, has a group of girlfriends, and has just gotten a chance with the boy she likes. Then she learns she is actually Britney Lake; the only child of serial killer Jeff Lake. Everything falls down around her as she struggles with this news, finding out her mother has been lying to her for her entire life– but also seeing who her true friends and allies really are. Scarlet is given the chance to speak to her father, and she agrees. Despite who he is and how shocked she is, Jeff has told the FBI he will give his daughter the names of the girls he was never convicted for. Scarlet hopes to give the families peace– and that includes herself and her mother.
I related to this novel in many ways, and I think that speaks to how intricate the themes are within it. On the surface, it is a shift in perspective– assuring that readers focus on the marks instead of the predator– but it takes only a scratch to reveal what’s underneath. We have Scarlet, raised by a single mother. She’s told all her life her dad left, and when she meets him, she wishes it were only so simple. There’s no denying how much it hurts feeling like you weren’t wanted, like you weren’t good enough for someone. What may be even worse, however, is knowing that the person who is supposed to love you, to be there for you… only has use for you when it benefits them. Despite that trauma, Scarlet finds first love, finds a dream, a purpose. This daughter’s story reminded me that my own is not over. In fact, both are just beginning.
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with all of this information!
Lex was taken–trafficked–and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again.
After she moves in with her aunt and uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.
But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, and a new love.
Kate McLaughlin’s What Unbreakable Looks Like is a gritty, ultimately hopeful novel about human trafficking through the lens of a girl who has escaped the life and learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.
I’m overwhelmingly grateful to NetGalley for the eARC of this hard-hitting and devastating novel; and to St. Martin’s Press for including me in this blog tour! I haven’t ever really researched much into sex trafficking; but I did vaguely know of the horrors within. It is a terrifying reality that countless kids are thrust into, but it is a topic that remains mostly untouched whether it be in fiction or nonfiction. Kate not only does an excellent job of opening the door to conversations about this scourge, but in doing so, she brings readers a story that gives us an unapologetic look at the lives of these young adults that have been irrevocably changed forever while also inserting a spark of hope. There is the ever-present threat of danger, the fear of being too broken, and the struggle of returning to a normalcy that has since left you behind– but the protagonist shows us all how strong the human spirit is, and no matter what your circumstances, you deserve happiness.
Alexa, better known as Lex, was taken by a man she thought she could trust and was then coerced to transform into Poppy; a girl who, along with several other ‘flowers’, was forced to have sex with many different clients. She watched captured girls come and go, made bonds with a few, and attempted to maintain a sense of self while being plied with drugs and beaten to keep her docile and submissive. She never thought she would see anything else but the hotel she was confined to, and she was almost resigned to that fact. Then, one day, the police arrived. They brought her to a nearby hospital to be examined, and when she is eventually discharged, she is taken in by an estranged aunt who facilitates her recovery. Lex endures rehab, makes new friends, trusts the wrong boys, loses people she loves, becomes the center for gossip at school, and maybe even begins to fall in love for the first time– all while wondering how much of it she deserves, or even how much of it is real.
I found Lex tremendously powerful as a character because she has been through so much and yet is still able to see the good in people and persevere through so much pain and trauma. She loses so much after she leaves the hotel, and both in spite of and because of that, the development that she has from page one to the end of the book is like night and day: the reader watches her build her self worth back and though it takes a long time, she also finds a sense of security and belonging that she had never felt before. This novel truly shows the magic of a good support system, as Lex is surrounded by love from her aunt, Krys, from her release on. In addition, all the people she meets afterwards act as a wall around her, protecting her from setbacks and hardships. All of these stalwart figues let her find out who she is in her own time, but love her every step of the way. Their influence reminds readers to treat those you meet in life fairly, as you never know what scars lie just beneath the surface.
Upon learning Lex’s history, readers and fellow characters alike will make snap judgments about her. Those people could never know her penchant for books and research, her affinity for public speaking, her strength, or the love she is capable of. She is a truly captivating protagonist, and though this story is heart-wrenching, just know that it is also a beacon of hope. Sometimes saving yourself will be the hardest thing you ever have to face. If, instead of discovering your own value, you’re taught your ‘worth’ at a young age, it’s going to be hard to overcome that, but it is always possible to change. You have the power to defy the world as it tries to take you down. It is cold and it is unforgiving, but you can find your people and yourself through it all. No matter how broken you feel, we are all stronger than we know. Lex’s tale is sure to remind us all what unbreakable looks like; and if you look in the mirror, I know you’ll see it too.
KATE McLAUGHLIN likes people, so much so that she spends her days making up her own. She likes writing about characters who are bent, but not broken – people who find their internal strength through friends, strife and sometimes humor. When she’s not writing, she likes studying people, both real and fictional. She also likes playing board games with friends, talking and discovering new music. A proud Nova Scotian, she’ll gladly tell you all about the highest tides in the world, the magical creation known as a donair, and people who have sofas in their kitchens. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and four cats. She’s the author of What Unbreakable Looks Like.
Check out what others have to say about the novel!
“With unflinching honesty, What Unbreakable Looks Like exposes the injuries and scars we wear on our skins or in our souls. Hidden damage is tragically common, but helpful others who dared embrace hope invite Alexa to step onto the healing path. This novel may offer a springboard for a reader’s own healing or foster empathy for life’s walking wounded.” – Liz Coley, author of international bestseller Pretty Girl-13
“Raw, unflinching, and authentic, Kate McLaughlin’s thoughtful What Unbreakable Looks Like carefully crafts a story exposing the vulnerability of underage trafficked girls and what it takes to begin the process of healing from sexual trauma.” – Christa Desir, author, advocate, and founding member of The Voices and Faces Project
“This is a powerful book about a sobering topic that I found myself thinking about for days after I completed it. It is wonderfully poignant, painfully real, and even laugh out loud funny at times. Not everyone can truly wrap their minds around the trauma these victims endure and yet somehow, despite all of it, are still just regular kids. But Kate McLaughlin gets it. ‘Lex’ is truly what unbreakable looks like and you’ll fall in love with her spirit.” – Tanya Compagnone, Trooper First Class
“Sex trafficking continues to seep into all our communities. In this novel, Kate McLaughlin brings to life the trauma that transpires in youth who forced into the life of sex trafficking. Her novel is a reminder that each of us can make a difference in someone’s life.” – Dina R. St. George, MSW, Juvenile Re-Entry Unit OCPD
Click below to preview the first chapter of this riveting YA debut!