In her superb debut novel Famous Adopted People, Alice Stephens breaks down the complicated relationship between adoptees and their birth parents, as well as the struggles adoptees face whilst growing up in an environment where they're treated differently for who they are.
The novel follows the story of Lisa, who was originally born in Korea and raised in America after being adopted by an American couple. Urged by her friend Mindy, she signs up to an agency to help find her birth mother. Due to a lack of paperwork, the agency fails to find Lisa’s birth mother. She’s then lured by a handsome local named Harrison, which ultimately results in her being drugged. She wakes up inside an underground compound that's close to Pyongyang, North Korea — Lisa is pulled into a life full of wealth and prestige but remains prisoner to an image-obsessed and narcissistic woman called Honey.
Famous Adopted People contains so many twists and turns that you won’t be able to predict what’s happening next. Whenever I expected something to happen, something else more bizarre would occur — the unpredictability of the book made it enjoyable to follow.
The character development of Lisa was also another intriguing part of the book. Before being kidnapped, Lisa had a long history of messing up and acting recklessly. She dabbled in drinking and drugs and broke the rules of her teaching contract in Japan by being involved in an illicit relationship with a pupil. Her troubles are slowly revealed throughout the book, weaving into the present where she is being held captive. Learning more about Lisa’s past through a series of flashbacks plays an important role in showing the shift in her overall outlook. Her character undergoes a massive change in the book and the author’s use of flashbacks plays a crucial role in this.
The novel’s only flaw is that ending appeared rushed, and I would have liked another 30 pages or so that detailed the final events in the narrative. Perhaps I was enjoying the novel so much that I didn't want it to end.
Famous Adopted People is a witty and enthralling debut by Stephens and one that provides a unique story on the nature of adoption.
Release date: October 2018 by The Unnamed Press