Monday, September 18, 2006

Double Identity

Book: Double Identity
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Published: 2005

Bethany Cole has been protected and indulged all her life. Though she’s never had a lot of friends, her adoring parents have built their lives around her. So when she is suddenly bundled into the car in the middle of the night and dropped off at her mysterious Aunt Myrlie’s, she’s justifiably surprised.

And all that’s before she finds out about Elizabeth . . .

Surrounded by lies and half-truths, it’s oh-so-tempting to just let it go. Her parents are scared, Aunt Myrlie and her daughter Joss are hesitant, and there’s the creepy man in the shadows. But it’s even more tempting to keep digging, because Bethany knows that when she understands Elizabeth, she’ll understand herself.

I found this a fascinating book for its reasonable and calm look at a topic that tends to polarize, and Haddix’s ability to apply the grey areas she’s unearthed to real-life emotions and relationships. Not only is this a story about contemporary scientific breakthroughs, it’s a story about growing up in the shadow of a dead sibling and the constraints of hyperprotective parents.

One of the most interesting characters is Joss, Bethany’s grown-up cousin who was Elizabeth’s best friend and is now a minister. She and Bethany have a number of talks about God, ethics, and morality without it coming off preachy or pat--an interesting way to include this often-sidelined and yet very important point of view on the issue at hand. Margaret Peterson Haddix is best-known for her lengthy Shadow Children series, which I’ve been meaning to pick up for some time now. Maybe when my library card isn’t maxed out . . . again.

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