Jonah Keller moved to New York City with dreams of becoming a successful playwright, but, for the time being, lives in a rundown sublet in Bushwick, working extra hours at a restaurant only to barely make rent. When he stumbles upon a photo of Richard Shriver—the glamorous Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright and quite possibly the stepping stone to the fame he craves—Jonah orchestrates their meeting. The two begin a hungry, passionate affair.
When summer arrives, Richard invites his young lover for a spell at his sprawling estate in the Hamptons. A tall iron fence surrounds the idyllic compound where Richard and a few of his close artist friends entertain, have lavish dinners, and—Jonah can’t help but notice—employ a waitstaff of young, attractive gay men, many of whom sport ugly bruises. Soon, Jonah is cast out of Richard’s good graces and a sinister underlay begins to emerge. As a series of transgressions lead inexorably to a violent climax, Jonah hurtles toward a decisive revenge that will shape the rest of his life.
Riveting, unpredictable, and compulsively readable, Yes, Daddy is an exploration of class, power dynamics, and the nuances of victimhood and complicity. It burns with weight and clarity—and offers hope that stories may hold the key to our healing.
I knew this would be dark but didn’t know it would get that dark that fast. The writing style is light and chatty, betraying the depths of depravity reached by the narrative. Yes, Daddy should come with a blanket trigger warning – you can name any topic or event that could cause a traumatic flashback, and it probably makes an appearance within these pages.
While I felt sympathetic for all of the abused characters (and most of the characters here are abused), something about Mace was so terribly sad and pathetic, and I couldn’t handle it. The others were trapped and had no power in this situation, primarily because they had been preyed upon precisely because of this lack of power. Mace was bonded by trauma and a lack of self-sufficiency or self-worth. He’s certainly not blameless in this scenario, and he should have warned Jonah, even though Jonah likely was not in a place to have heeded the warning. As the only person (being abused) with any sense of agency (even though it is barely existent), he plays a role in the extensive abuse of others. Mace should have acted in any possible, even small, way to help the others trapped in that house.
Trauma is like a gift. The shittiest fucking gift in the world. Coal in your motherfucking stocking. But the minute you receive it, it becomes yours. And it's your responsibility what you do with it. And you can use it as an excuse to destroy your life and destroy the lives of people around you, but you shouldn't .
Class and power dynamics play a big role in this story and the characters’ outcomes. The #MeToo movement made public the discussion (and characterisation) of victimhood and the nuance of compliance in power dynamics and within society. Yes, Daddy explores this in the LGBTQIA+ community and how members of this community are disproportionately targeted and victimised, often receiving little justice or support due to prejudiced social stratification and legislation. Men who speak out about abuse, especially of a sexual nature, are often belittled. And when it occurs in the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s often ignored or leads to further abuse.
There’s also a twisted, sinister Christianity plotline taking place in several different kinds of churches. This starts front and centre before disappearing into the background as some pretty intense activities occur. Suddenly, it rears its ugly head again, and I began to become disillusioned with the entire book – had I read about all of these terrible things just to get hoodwinked into reading a Christianity saviour story. I was pretty angry.
And while, yeah, it is kind of a Christianity saviour story, it’s at least a more realistic, less public display of trauma to appease the church kind of story.
I appreciated that even when I wasn’t expecting anything, there were still a few twists to come. The Christianity part of it still wasn’t my favourite twist to the story, though.
The narrative was gripping and fast-paced, but I did find myself questioning why I was reading Yes, Daddy at times. Like driving past a car crash, it was hard to look away, even if I probably should have. The story walks a fine line between an important discussion in the #MeToo era, especially in the LGBTQIA+ community, and horrific trauma erotica. In the end, it does feel it ends up on the right side of that line (for me), but it is certainly a close call. I wouldn’t be surprised or upset if others disagreed and came to a different conclusion based on their personal history, experiences, and perspective. This could be a very confronting read for some people.