The basics: When she was five, Kick Lannigan was kidnapped by Mel. He changed her name and birthday, and she came to know him as her father. As Beth, she became a famous child pornography star. She was rescued after six years and returned to her family. Now 21, Kick obsesses over children who go missing and tries to track them down to save them from child predators.
My thoughts: I love Chelsea Cain for her bold, dark characters, particularly the female ones, and Kick Lannigan is certainly both. The novel's prologue details the day of Kick's rescue, then the action jumps forward ten years. Kick is, unsurprisingly, a deeply scarred woman, both emotionally and physically. But she's also a remarkably strong and fearless one.
Cain is a fearless writer, and as this novel explores the underground world of child pornography, it is predictably dark. Thankfully, Cain doesn't treat the subject matter in an exploitative or salacious manner, nor does she shy away from its realities. Still, I was surprised how Cain kept the tone of the novel from being too dark. I attribute her success to having bad-ass, rule-breaking characters fighting against the bad guys. Kick is the most notable example; she knows the secrets of how and where Mel kept her hidden for five years, and she uses this knowledge to help track and find others. As always in Cain's novels, she explores the tension between good and evil in fascinating ways that are beautifully complicated.
This novel is fast-paced in its action, but it's also a thoughtful exploration of Kick's psyche and life. Her interior monologue is a fascinating one. It's at times depressing and at times uplifting, but it's always honest and absorbing.
Favorite passage: "Kick's fear dissolved into rage, which was a lot more satisfying. Fear came with two options: fight or flight. Rage offered more shades of possibility."
The verdict: One Kick is an exhilarating, smart, adrenaline-pumping read. Cain has created another memorable, dynamic character in Kick Lannigan. The ending manages to be both satisfying and set up the second novel in this series perfectly. I'm already eagerly awaiting more of Kick's adventures.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 321 pages
Publication date: August 19, 2014
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