review: Fake ID

+-+822584254_70.jpgtitle: Fake ID
author: Lamar Giles
date: Amistad; 2014
main character: Nick Pearson (née Tony Bordeaux)
YA mystery

Nick is a young African American male whose voice narrates the Fake ID. We readers are among the few who know that his real name is Tony. The situations that have him using this pseudonym along with his uncanny ability to thrive in these situations makes him an insightful, trustworthy and reliable narrator. Nick’s senses are particularly keen with regards knowing who he can trust and when danger is not far away. His current school, Stepton High, is older than many of the schools he’s attended. The structure is old and worn and the student body has that same familiar feel. Yet, something feels…off… Eli is the first friend he makes at this high school but, just as Nick wants to trust him, Eli is found dead.

We are told that Eli is Latinx on page 2, that Reya is Latinx on page 4 and that Nick is African American on page 34.

“Yeah. Who are you?”

“Carrey.” He tapped a large black guy in a letterman jacket on the shoulder. Seeing other brown faces relaxed me. “This is Lorenz.”

And, we don’ learn the race or ethnicity of any other character in the story, other than family members. Nick is able to express threats to his person that stem from his identity on page 11 (“We’d probably eat lunch in the Ku Klux Klan Kafé) and on page 2 (“Outside the office the gym had an old feel, like in those historical sports movies where the team plays a championship game against racism or something) but, such incidences are extremely limited observations, skewing into the domain of whiteness. It’s a comfortable read for white readers.

Nick is empowered through his narrative voice. The situations empower him as well. Although he takes a serious pounding near the beginning of the story, it’s the physical altercation near the end of the book where everything comes together and Nick shines. Here, he’s able to physically, emotionally and intellectually control the space.

It’s hard to believe that this was Giles’ debut as a published author. in Fake ID, he built a rather complex tale and never dropped a thread. His contemporary mystery is believable in every way. He does an effective job of creating suspense about the nature of the town and a maintaining a level of intrigue that keeps the reader invested in the story.

Eli only lived for one month after Nick arrived in Stepton, but in this short span of time, Giles is able to develop care and concern for the character. I don’t know that Reya comes across as likeable (she didn’t for me) because we just don’t know her as well. We know she’s “about five five and athletic, black hair with brown highlights and sun darkened skin despite the cool weather. You couldn’t not notice this girl.” (p. 4) She receives more of a physical description that other characters in the book. She’s street smart and she’s hot-tempered. In short, she’s a bit of a stereotype.

I didn’t see the ending coming because I was enjoying the story more than I was trying to solve the mystery. The villain is complex!

Nick successfully solves this mystery but Giles leaves room for a second (or third) book in a series. Through Giles writing, Nick Pearson brings a unique voice to YA literature.

Fake ID was a 2015 Edgar Award nominee.

Other books by Lamar Giles.

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August 2018