The Torturer's Daughter by Zoe Cannon
Published December 11th 2012 (first published October 22nd 2012)
Source: review request from the author
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads summary: 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.
The Torturer's Daughter delivers a tremendous, Orwellian dose of paranoia and that might be why I enjoyed it more than I initially expected. If I thought that dystopias have been done to death and that there's nothing new to be added to the genre, this one proved me wrong.
Truth be told, Cannon doesn't really offer anything original or never-seen-before; the idea of dissidents has been explored before. The freshness of this book is in the execution. There is little plot on the outside, just enough to keep the story going. Also no world-building; we only know that the Internal agency of an unnamed country under an unnamed regime is arresting people in the middle of the night. While I enjoy a well-drawn world speckled with some political intrigue, the absence of it in The Torturer's Daughter doesn't bother me a bit because the focus of the story is the effects of the regime on an individual. Most of the thrill comes from Becca's questioning everything that she thought was 'right' or 'wrong'. She is trying to figure out how her mother and the cruel interrogator can be the same person; how the mother she loves can stand for what Becca firsthand experiences as wrong. I was glued to this book to find out what Becca's actions will be, I was rooting for Becca to do the right thing even when none of us knew what the right thing is.
The Torturer's Daughter ends with a sort of cliffhanger. It opens up a ton of possibilities for a sequel, but also nicely rounds up the first book. (And I just realized that there will be a sequel this summer!)
Overall, The Torture's Daughter is a great read that plays with your nerves and sets great challenges before its characters and I'll be looking out for more from this author.