Author: Megan Cooley Peterson
Publisher: Holiday House
First Published: September 10, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult
Piper was raised in a cult.
She just doesn't know it.
Seventeen-year-old Piper knows that Father is a Prophet. Infallible. The chosen one.
She would do anything for Father. That's why she takes care of all her little sisters. That's why she runs end-of-the-world drills. That's why she never asks questions. Because Father knows best.
Until the day he doesn't. Until the day the government raids the compound and separates Piper from her siblings, from Mother, from the Aunts, from all of Father's followers--even from Caspian, the boy she loves.
Now Piper is living Outside. Among Them.
With a woman They claim is her real mother--a woman They say Father stole her from.
But Piper knows better. And Piper is going to escape.
I knew that this story was going to be a page-turner just by the look of it, and the brief synopsis hooked me. The Liar’s Daughter is less about everyday life in a cult, but about Piper’s search for truth and eventual recovery from the trauma that she has endured and tucked away. Piper is virtuous, obedient to her parents, and cares for the other children that she lives within an abandoned theme park. She dreams of being initiated into the commune and doing her part to better the lives of other people, away from the toxic influences of modern society.
The setting feels like time has stopped somewhere between the 1970s and 1980s, the children wear peasant tops and bellbottom jeans, grow their own food, their only connection to the world outside that they know of they learn from watching old VHS videotapes. The narrative is told through alternating chapters, “before” Piper’s rescue and her recovery period “after,” it can feel disjointed at times but his was fitting for displaying Piper’s confused and fragmented state of mind.
“We all want to please our parents, our friends, our teachers. It’s easy to adopt someone else’s belief system as your own without even realizing it. You’re building your own belief system now. How does it feel?”
There were a few gaps in the story that I feel could have made it better. This story more compelling would have been to show what made Curtis and his teachings so compelling to others. Piper shows clear devotion to the cult, though the same can’t be said about other characters. The other small children are devoted only because Curtis and Angela are parental figures to the children. The few cult members that are encountered are doubtful, Piper is the only character that appears to be truly indoctrinated. There is no real sense as to how this cult had managed to enthrall people for what sounds like a decent period of time.
The synopsis for the book also immediately informs the reader that the main character is with her biological mother in the after chapters. Though it is gradually pieced together in the novel as Piper discovers herself, it might have provided a little mystery going into the story without this prior knowledge. While I liked the romance in this story, it seems like a tired plot device in several cult and commune YA novels to rely heavily on a dreamy outsider boy showing up and prompting the heroine to rethink her situation.
Despite all this, The Liar’s Daughter was a fast read with some engaging characters. It raises awareness of the dangers of cults for a young adult audience that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and can comfortably recommend. A wonderful debut by the author and I hope that she continues to write.
- Pros: A well-written exploration of growing up in a cult and the struggle to deprogram.
- Cons: Burdened by some common tropes seen in other YA stories about cults and abduction.
- Warnings: Child abuse, Language, Sex, Drugs