reviews

Not Her Daughter: Rea Frey

Not Her Daughter; Rea Frey
Genre: Fiction/Suspense
Published: 2018
Pages: 338
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Hufflepuff

What would you do if you saw a mother harming her child? If you’re Sarah, you’ll take her and run.

After she sees some suspicious mommy behavior on a business trip, Sarah assumes the worst and takes little Emma and runs. As they stay on the run from the incoming investigation, the two of them form a bond that is more like mother and daughter. But is Sarah a kidnapper? Did she do the right thing, even if Emma does not miss her family?

Meanwhile, Amy’s living a disappointing life. Kids didn’t help, but she didn’t really mean to hit her daughter, or lock her out of the house. And now Emma is gone, and it’s her fault. Then again, does she even want Emma back?

Not Her Daughter is a sweet yet psychological and thrilling look at what it means to be a mother. It’s one of those books that constantly makes you ask the question, “what would I do?”

It’s one of those tales told in flashbacks and present day. Sections are organized between Amy and Sarah’s point of view, though we fittingly hear from Sarah the most. Sarah’s chapters are written in first person while Amy’s are in third, an odd style choice. At first, the third person gives readers (and Frey) more room to judge instead of being able to see through her eyes, so my first thought was that the author was steering us to judge her more. I wanted to make that decision for myself, but as time passed, I found that Amy’s voice did come through. Ultimately, you’re not asked to hate or love either character. The chapters are also divided into subsections of “before,” “after,” and “during,” meaning in regards to Emma’s kidnapping. Although this wasn’t hard to keep track of, I did find that some of Sarah’s “before” chapters, covering her backstory, weren’t necessary. I didn’t find her relationship issues relevant to the book, nor did meeting her mother. Now normally I would be like “UGH SERIOUSLY MORE MISSING PARENT ISSUES???” but if there is a book for that, this is the one. The novel explores not only the impact of Sarah and Amy’s parenting, but how they came to be the parents they are because of their own parents as well. It’s some very interesting psychology, but then again, Sarah’s trip to meet her mother didn’t seem necessary either.

The characters are interesting. One is successful, the other works but is mostly a homemaker. One thinks Emma is sweet and charming, the other believes her to be a nuisance. Sometimes I wondered about Sarah, too. Although her motives start to maybe become more selfish (she starts to think about wanting a kid more than saving Emma at some point), this gives the reader a chance to see the character in shades of gray rather than just have explained to us who is the bad guy and who is good. I even wondered if Amy was right after all, at times. I did like the bond between Sarah and Emma. It was sweet and definitely added to the emotional factor. Emma seemed to go right along with everything, which was odd –I chose to chalk it up as her having an unhappy home life.

This is actually a difficult book to review because although it was definitely gripping, there were a considerable amount of things that didn’t work. Mainly, these are logic problems that disrupt the story. I didn’t feel that it needed the relationship side stories. And yes, there is an instance of “instalove.” That doesn’t really belong in a heavy adult novel about a kidnapping, and I don’t think that’s where Sarah’s concerns would lie. Frey also likes to throw in random SJWish statements, including some jabs at how white kids get more attention than missing black kids (not sure why that’s relevant to the book or if that’s true?) and stuff about the media, though I will say that the media stuff at least opens up some questions about how easy or hard it might be to get away with taking someone’s child. And the ending was not only a bit underwhelming, but also fraught with many possible legal issues. I get wanting to stir readers’ emotions, but it could have played out better. I mean, wow, after all that action, it just came to…that? In addition, it’s fragmented between character POVS so I’m not even sure how the events came about.

Okay, and bear with me: the gay side character. I present to you my mini guide.

HOW TO WRITE GAY CHARACTERS
BY FICTIONISTAS UNITE

1. Follow the exact same character-creating process you use for straight people. 
2. Make them attracted to people of the same gender.

Does this guide look familiar to my blog readers? Probably. This gay side character is the exact same gay side character I’ve seen twice this year already. This is a problem. I don’t get why cardboard stereotypes are still a thing in this day and age. Oddly, Frey does a good job with characterization in the beginning but later on he begins to sift into “sweetie” and “girl” and designer clothes territory. This is really nitpicky, no points off, but it’s still annoying and I cringe at the fact that all the gay characters I’ve seen in 2019 are the same person. Writers, do better!

Some of my problems were nitpicky. Mostly what bothered me was the explanation of why Amy is a troubled person besides that she just had kids and let herself go. That was really, really out there. I mean, that was just utterly unbelievable and I wondered if I would DNF because I was afraid I couldn’t take the book seriously after a certain point. I am usually willing to keep an open mind, especially with things like hypnotherapy, because I’ve done so before in other novels and it works. But I am a little curious why this reasoning got ok’d by publishing. It’s a bad reason, I’m sorry. Keep a wide open mind for this one.

Fortunately, the good story is most prevalent here. Despite the issues, this is undoubtedly an exciting book. I had a hard time putting this one down and following the adventures of both characters. I honestly didn’t know how well things would turn out for anyone, and despite a little disappointment at the rushed ending, it was a solid read. Whether you’re into parenting issues, psychology, or just like a suspenseful read, give it a try.

Best points: The characters, the real suspense, the emotions
Could be improved: Logic in general. The ending.

4 stars

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