The Only Child

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Feb 2020

Member Reviews

Nature vs. nurture. In this book, Seonkyeong is tasked with caring for her husband's child. She is also in the process of interviewing a serial killer. She starts to see parallels with the killer and her stepdaughter. Can some kids just be born evil? Or do horrible parents set their child on a path to murder? I enjoyed this book and really liked the surprise at the end.
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When reading a translated book you like you probably don't give much thought to the original version, which is why I don't like blaming the translator when I don't enjoy a novel. In this case, I have to question the English translation. The text is repetitive to the extreme and the dialogues sound strange (for instance, everybody asks if they can get their visitors something "cold" to drink -every single time they greet someone). I also wasn't sure if some of the events seem nonsensical to someone who knows nothing of Korean culture, or if there was something significant about what was happening. I had no idea whether Seonkyeong's husband is supposed to be a jerk, or if it's just that Korean culture allows men to bring home their daughters from previous marriages to be cared for by their new wives without asking or explaining. Some characters, like the investigators, are introduced only to be forgotten and brought back when needed. I loved the ending though, it made reading the novel worth it. 
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/HarperCollins Publishers!
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In a world full of serial killer novels, this one sticks up! The relationship with the step daughter is a unique element and a big reason I simply couldn't put this book down!
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This book was just okay. I was expecting a thriller but it wasn’t really very thrilling.

The book opens with a young college professor interviewing a famous serial killer the same day that her husbands daughter shows up after a mysterious fire has killed the grandparents of the little girl. She soon sees similarities between her step daughter and the serial killer. 

Maybe there was a lot list in the translation but I was never on edge and it was pretty predictable for me. It was also pretty slow. I was just expecting more. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the book in exchange for an honest opinion. I’m giving this a 2.5.
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2.5 Stars 

The cover and synopsis really drew me in with this one. The fact that it was a Korean Thriller that was translated intrigued me as well. 

It was OK ish- I’m still on the fence. I didn’t hate it per day but I’m not going to recommend it. 

There were some things that I did like. I liked the multi perspectives. One of the perspectives is a child’s perspective and I always enjoy that in books. 

I liked that one of the main characters was interviewing a serial killer. I expected to get answers though. I didn’t get the answers I wanted. For example - why the serial killer chose her to speak with him. I had a theory. 

You know what- did I maybe get an answer and miss it because I was skimming towards the end? I kinda was ready for the book to be over. 

Here’s why- 

This book was more character driven then plot driven in my opinion and that’s ok. It’s ok if I enjoy the characters. I only truly enjoyed one of them. 

This book also has a theme of parents and parental figures being cruel to children which I do not like and is sometimes triggering. There is also animal torture. 😬. 

I did make it to the end of this one and I did not dislike it all the way through. I am curious to see how other people respond to it. 

Thank you so much to Ecco, Harper Collins and NetGalley for my advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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The Only Child by Mi-ae Seo is a literary suspense novel following a criminal psychologist who discovers a disturbing connection between her stepdaughter and a serial killer. 

The Only Child is a subtle, slow-burn novel, with hints of tension threaded throughout each page. It's not as fast-paced as I prefer my reads to be, and it doesn't have a slew of twists and turns thrown into the mix either. However, the author excels at writing sinister undertones, with the creepiness building quite slowly. 

Being a literary suspense novel, it focuses on characters, not plot, so the author does a wonderful job of building suspense by delving into each character's intentions with sharp insight. 

This is a book that's made by its ending, so be prepared for it! If you enjoy slow-burn suspense novels that are more literary in nature, I recommend this one.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. This is my honest, unbiased review.
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I received this ARC book from Netgalley for honest Review.

What a great thrill and suspense it was to read. What a great psychological thrill! This novel had everything in it. The thrill, the suspense, the psychological, and the twist is crazy. This novel will keep you thinking and guessing. When you think you right, well let me just say that you might be wrong. This had me all over the place. My heart beating so fast! I couldn't believe what I was reading. If had me in shock. Every page, every chapter was a page turner. I couldn't believe my eyes what I was reading. I highly recommend everybody get this book and read it. It will surprise you in every way.


The storyline was very good! 
The theme and setting was well put together. The characters was well put together in the story. 
This story will have in a rollercoaster with all the spooky and secrets. Was so well put in the story. 
Everything all in one book. 
It was just perfect!
I highly recommend everybody get this and read it. 
What a great read! This had me hooked from the beginning. What a Rollercoaster! The sitting, theme, and the Characters had me pulled so in. Everything was well put together and it was just perfect. This novel would have you guess and thinking all the way to the end. What a great thrill and suspense. I love a great suspense that would have me think and guessing. This novel did just that to me. To the point that am wrong. When the ending comes am on shock. I wouldn't of never believe or guess. Like OMG! 
Highly recommend everybody get this book and read it. Its so good! 
Can't wait for her next book.
4.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐🌠
 #netgallery
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***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of THE ONLY CHILD by Mi-ae Seo in exchange for my honest review.***

A criminal psychiatrist becomes alarmed with the parallels between the serial killer she’s interviewing and her own stepdaughter, who recently came to live with the family.

Reminiscent of  BABY TEETH and THE BAD SEED, THE ONLY CHILD is a great premise for a psychological thriller. I enjoyed the details of the story more than the actual book. Reading Mi-ae See’s translated words felt like a chore rather than pleasure. I haven’t had a lot of luck with books translated to English so when my biggest issue with THE ONLY CHILD was the clunky reading experience, it may very well be a case of it’s me, not the book.

I can picture THE ONLY CHILD as a Netflix miniseries or film and would be sure to watch.
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Imagine if Clarice Starling hadn't been an FBI agent, but instead she was just a criminal psychology professor with a special interest in studying the cases from "Mindhunter." So, when the serial killer insists that he will only talk to her, she has literally no experience for actually dealing with criminals. Oh, and she's also unexpectedly become the guardian of a little girl like the one in "The Bad Seed." Seems great that she's a criminal psychologist...but there again, she's got no experience with children at all. 

Seo brought a new perspective to such classically "American" psychological thrillers and created a satisfying page turner. I was interested in reading this sort of story as set in another country and from the point of view of another culture, and I did appreciate that aspect of the book. More than that, I have to give Seo credit for writing a story that gives nod to those famous books/scripts while still being unique and original on its own.
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Cool storyline but the translation is rough. I’m not the only one with this feedback so I’m hoping it’s polished before publication day.
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It’s obvious that whoever translated this is not a fluent English speaker. One doesn’t have to be a native speaker to speak fluently but the translation is stunted and awkward and lacks the sensibilities of a writer. 

I had a hard time connecting with the main character and didn’t understand her thought process. Frankly, she seemed kind of... well, dumb. 

The story itself wasn’t particularly original or thrilling. 

I would not recommend this one. Maybe with a whole lot more polish on the writing style, I may have liked it a tad more.
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I received a free advanced reader’s eproof copy of The Only Child from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, publisher, and Netgalley!  

As Seonkyeong’s first semester teaching criminal psychology at a university comes to an end, she receives an unexpected phone call from the director of the Association of Criminal Psychology. Yi Byeongdo, a notorious serial killer imprisoned for the murder of 13 plus women, personally requests to an interview with Seonkyeong. This comes as a complete shock. For years, Yi Byeongdo has remained silent and refused to discuss his crimes with anybody. So why choose Seonkyeong, a woman who has never crossed paths with Yi Byeongdo . . . or so she thought.  

Thus, begins the story The Only Child by Mi-ae Seo. Before reading this novel, I highly recommend not reading the Goodread’s synopsis for this book. I feel it gives away way too much of the story, more than half of the novel in fact, and can make it less enjoyable.  

I was thoroughly surprised by this novel and was captivated until the very end. This is the first modern Korean novel I have read, the only other ones being proletarian literature from the early to the middle 20th century, and I was not disappointed.  

From this story, I learned more about Korean culture and the criminal justice system that is put in place. I was invested in the characters and found myself getting genuinely concerned or angry when certain things happened. This story is written in the third-person perspective, so we are able to see the point-of-view of many characters in the story and not just our main two characters, Seonkyeong and Byeongdo. Although, I have to say Seonkyeong was my favorite and a strong female lead.  

For being a translation, the writing flows well to the point where I was completely immersed and could not tell it was a translation. From working with translating original works in Japanese to English, I know it is incredibly difficult to capture the original atmosphere the author intended. This is from phrases not completely transferring over cultures or the meaning not quite making sense in English. As a translator, translating the work literally causes the writing to feel stiff and robotic. A lot of translators have to do guesswork and add their own interpretation of the text to make a good translation, and I feel the translator did this well. There were a few parts where you could tell something was amiss. For example, the same phrase would be repeated multiple times in a row, just said in a different way. However, this did not happen often and was more towards the first half of the book.  

We see a lot of parallels to real-life serial killers which, for the most part, the author acknowledges. Mi-ae Seo makes direct references to Ted Bundy, Yu Yeongcheol, and Mary Bell. In a way, it makes the story feel more realistic when referencing these people as if this story was actually taking place. One unacknowledged connection with a real-life serial killer was the use of the song Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. Charles Manson was notorious for using Beatles songs to justify his actions, so this was a little too much, and the author could have chosen a different, more original song to use. However, I definitely feel Yi Byeongdo had enough originalities about him that, for the most part, he did not feel like a copy and paste version of these real-life serial killers.  

One negative I have with the story is how predictable some of the plot points were. I was able to realize what was going on when only in the first quarter of the novel. Despite this, I found myself still engaged, and the actual ending was something I had not seen coming. You are left with more questions than answers at the end, so if you are someone who does not like an open ending, you may not enjoy this one.  

Overall, I would give this a 3.5 out of 5 stars, rounding up to 4. I would definitely recommend this to people who love thrillers and crime novels and want to read one from a Korean author.
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One night, a fire takes the life of a couple, but something doesn’t seem right. The couple died tucked in their bed, while their granddaughter made it from the house safe and sound. Seonkyeong, a criminal psychologist, is given the opportunity to interview the serial killer Yi Byeongdo, who is thought to have murdered more people than he has been charged with. The night after the first interview, Seonkyeong finds her husband’s daughter, Hayeong, has come to live with them after the fire. Soon certain things begin to nag at Seonkyeong, making her draw connections between the serial killer she interviews and the child living in her house.

First of all, this book was translated from Korean and you can tell. There are things that characters say that people don’t say when they speak English. For example several times someone says “what’s the oldest memory in your mind?” rather than “what’s your first memory?” or “what’s your oldest memory?” This issue of translation also causes the sentences to be chunky and lack flow. Certain things are hugely redundant, which could be in the original or just be because of the translation. Korean and English are very different languages, so translating between them would be a struggle, but in this case it wasn’t done well. The story itself is rather rough: I had to push myself through the first chapter. Seonkyeong is a psychologist and, yet, she doesn’t seem to understand the psychology behind how she treats Hayeong. The interviews with the serial killer are just...well, disappointing. Nothing seems to happen there. All in all, I would have to say that this was a very disappointing book. Two stars.
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Very well written. The storyline was perfect. I could not out it down. Read the book in one day. The author sucks you in to the plot.
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This book's premise really interested me with how unique it seemed. It definitely had the ability to keep my interest as I kept thinking about when I could get back to reading it so for that I wanted to give it a higher rating. Honestly I didn't really find the characters to be that believable (though this could be because of cultural differences). I wished the different parts of the puzzle had come together a bit more as I thought that the different parts of the story would end up being more related than they were. The ending was an interesting choice and one I didn't see coming but not particularly satisfying. The bouncing between whether or not we should sympathize with the unstable characters or view them as evil was a bit jarring at times as I wasn't really sure what the book was ultimately trying to say about mental illness and the affect of abuse on children. Overall it was a page turner which is why I gave it a 7 but I also had a lot of issues with the book as well.
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I was really excited when I read the review for this book! It takes place in Seoul, South Korea. So I was over here giddy with glee cause you know that’s where I was born 😂 You can 100% see the culture because the way the characters are written and how their dialogue is, is different from an English speakers view. Some things are said differently or with more words than what would typically be said in the US. 

I greatly enjoyed this aspect. 

However. I don’t understand the title and how it pertains to the book. Yes there were children. But only child’s were not really discussed or really even the main focal point. 

Also. The book fell flat. Just utterly flat. I don’t really know how else to put that. It was interesting in some parts because a serial killer was involved but I didn’t think the book flowed all that well and it make it really difficult to follow along. 

I also wouldn’t really call this book a thriller. I mean, yes, there were some instances where I was kept on my toes. But for the most part most of it was guessed. So maybe more like a mysterious suspense book? Not totally sure on that. 

Overall, I liked the Korean culture aspect, some of the twists, but it just wasn’t my favorite.
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Seonkyeong is a criminal psychologist who is asked by serial killer Yi Byeongdo to interview him.  At the same time, her stepdaughter comes to live with her after a family tragedy.  I didn't really enjoy this.  I don't know if it was partly due to the translation (from Korean), but I didn't think the writing flowed very well.  I didn't care for the characters, and the story should have focused on either the serial killer or the daughter, not both.  None of it was very surprising, and I didn't enjoy reading it.  One star.
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The Only Child is a unique and engrossing Korean thriller. Mi-ae So captivates the reader from the first page to the last
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I decided to read this in the time period leading up to Halloween hoping that I would get a mind-bending psychological thriller and now that I've finished... meh.

The main character is supposedly an expert in criminal psychology, but you wouldn't really know it from her actions and mindset in the story. The story was generally a bit disjointed and the two parts did not end up being entwined the way I had anticipated. Now, that's not inherently a reason to put down the book. In fact, most of the time with a thriller you hope to be surprised. But the way it came together at the end just didn't feel satisfying. 

There were aspects that felt far fetched and others that I simply wished had been fleshed out more. I'm a fairly nervous person and I did not feel the "persistent creepiness" or "psychological suspense" that the synopsis had promised.

All in all, it was not a BAD book. I don't feel like I wasted my time, but I would not go out of my way to recommend this to someone looking for a thriller.
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This book tells the story of a serial killer. How he became a killer, was it nature or nurture. When interviewing a prolific serial killer in prison. It seems that he became a killer because of how he was treated by his mother. She was mean and abusive. Now the killer is in prison doing time for the women he murdered.
An eleven year old girl is discovered outside her grandparent's home. She is clutching a dirty teddy bear. The house has burned, killing her grandparent's. When approached she calmly hands over her father's business card and say she wants her daddy.
Her father picks her up. He is not sure what his new wife will say about adding a member to rmthe family. 
This child was also raised by an abusive mother. 
How this serial killer and this eleven year old girl will connect  makes for an extraordinary story. Fantastic!
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