Fake ID

303p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Amistad. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062121844.
Gr 9 Up—Nick Pearson's real name is Tony Bordeaux. A high schooler in Witness Protection, this is the fourth new identity and home for Nick in the last few years. It's all because his father keeps falling into his old criminal habits. Despite this, Nick is trying his best to fit into his new life and school in Stepton, Georgia. He befriends his student guide, an eccentric aspiring journalist named Eli Cruz. As Eli attempts to persuade him to join the school paper, the reporter alludes to shady dealings and sinister happenings going on in Stepton, including something called "Whispertown." Unexpectedly, Nick finds Eli dead one morning. The police rule his death a suicide, but Nick and Eli's sister Reya suspect that he may have uncovered something that he shouldn't have. As evidence mounts, the protagonist begins to connect all the disparate events, culminating in deadly consequences. Giles's action-packed debut will have teens on the edge of their seats as they follow Nick's journey to discover the secrets of Whispertown and his attempt to uncover why his friend was killed. Teen readers will especially relate to the likable everyman and African American main character. His burgeoning relationship with Reya, despite being grounded in tragedy, is one of the more charming aspects of the plot. A twist reveal at the novel's climax will shock many and will leave fans of mystery and suspense books extremely satisfied.—Ryan P. Donovan, New York Public Library
Fast-paced, funny, and featuring a diverse cast, Fake ID has wide appeal. Starts as a clever whodunit and deftly builds into a fascinating, multilayered conspiracy thriller. Nick is a compelling, relatable protagonist. He’s standoffish and cynical from his family’s tumultuous time in the Witness Protection Program (“Happy has a short battery life in my world,” he says.). But Nick has a strong moral compass and an irrepressible curiosity that gets him into trouble—as well as an impressive resourcefulness that gets him out of it. Supporting characters are well drawn and help anchor the complex plot in human emotion. Nick’s charmingly adversarial friendship with Eli, the hyper-intelligent school newspaper editor, doesn’t last long, but Eli’s sudden murder is startling and resonates throughout the story. And Nick’s relationship with Reya, Eli’s beautiful, tenacious sister, is realistically complicated and a source of both needed warmth and additional tension. The Witness Protection Program, a familiar trope of suspense stories, feels fresh and engaging in this novel. Nick’s father’s criminal history—and Nick’s witness to that history—leads to compelling drama at home. Later, in a surprising reveal, Nick learns that the program is much more deeply involved in his new town’s mysteries than he imagined.
The new kid, going by "Nick" (for now), must learn to fit in without standing out--his family isn't allowed another witness protection relocation. But when a friend turns up dead after collecting some damning information on mysterious local goings-on, blending in is no longer an option. Smart, punchy teen dialogue; a strong African American protagonist; and non-stop twists and turns make this mystery pop.
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