Book Review: Counterfeit Son by Elaine Marie Alphin

Title: Counterfeit Son

Author: Elaine Marie Alphin

Genre: YA Thriller

Number of Pages: 192

Rating: B+

Recommended?: Yes

TW: Pedophilia, Child Abduction, Child Murder


Counterfeit Son follows the harrowing journey of Cameron, the son of a pedophile/serial killer who brutalizes him and locks him in the basement while he rapes and murders other boys he’s abducted. When ‘Pop’ is shot by police, Cameron uses the files on the other boys he found in the basement and pretends to be one of the victims, ‘reunited’ with the family who can’t believe their good fortune.

Well, the parents can’t anyway. The sister and brother, Diana and Stevie, are immediately suspicious. Cameron has a strong physical resemblance to the dead boy, Neil, but there are discrepancies that the mom and dad overlook. The family is loaded, and Cameron practically chose them because he read an article about them in the file cabinet that mentioned they had sailboats.

There’s a cop who wants to expose Cameron as a fraud but since Neil’s dad is a lawyer, he pushes to bring Cameron home and postpone DNA testing, a decision he might live to regret. Counterfeit Son was a tightly plotted and fast-paced book that took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions.

There were definitely some contrivances, but the author made it work. I felt so bad for the parents because Cameron was making a horrific situation even worse and more traumatic for them and even though I was mad at him I kind of understood why he was doing what he was doing.

He had never had a home or a family or even a life before, just abuse and pain. Everybody in the book was flawed, even the parents. They made everything about Neil BEFORE he disappeared, favoring him over their other children. The big showdown on the sailboat at the end was admittedly over-the-top, and it seemed so unlikely that things would go down like that.

I understood why it was important to the plot and Cameron’s character arc but it still felt forced. Similarly, the big reveal was a little contrived but I liked how they foreshadowed it throughout the book. I also liked how the book ended on a slightly ambiguous but hopeful note.

This wasn’t the darkest YA book I’ve read (that honor goes to Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott) and while there was a lot of disturbing subject matter the author managed to keep it non-graphic for the most part. The book also portrays how victims of sexual abuse sometimes become perpetrators and how Cameron is determined to break the cycle. Overall, this is an emotionally engaging and riveting story that made me want to seek out more by the author.

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