CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 15 . . . .March 21, 2008
Montreal, PQ: Lobster Press, 2008.
143 pp., pbk., $8.95.
Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Lori Giles-Smith.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
After the incident, Danny was whisked out of the hospital in a mini-van to another hospital many hours away. There, his mother and someone named Mr. Lankford from the FBI talked to him in private. Mr. Lankford explained that as a witness to Steveís crime, Danny was in danger. Also, because both Danny and Eileen could identify Steveís criminal associates, there were both in danger. Steve wanted them both dead, and he had the power and influence to make that happen, even from behind bars. The FBI wanted the Torberts to testify against Steve in court so that they could put him in jail for a long, long time. Mr. Lankford explained that Danny would have to tell the court about everything he knew and everything he had seen that day. Although Danny knew it would put their lives in even more danger, he could not handle the guilt that weighed like lead on his shoulders. He agreed to testify in court. Mr. Lankford gave the mother and son information about new identities, new lives, and new beginnings. But inside, Danny knew the truth: You canít hide from yourself.
Fifteen-year-old Dannyís whole life is an elaborate lie - his name, his grades, his hair, and his past. Danny and his mother must keep their true selves completely hidden from everyone or risk getting caught by the people who murdered his father. Under the witness protection program, they are constantly on the run from the people they helped convict. Seven times in the last four years they relocated and took on different personas, but wherever they hide there is a problem. Danny also finds it difficult to hide from the guilt he feels for somehow not stopping his fatherís murder.
Readers meet Danny and his mom as they move to Virginia Beach and Danny becomes Alex, a skateboarder. The new Alex has to fit in with a new group of people while secretly learning how to skate in his garage. Alex quickly becomes attached to his new group of friends, but he still canít let them get too close. When their pursuers follow the trail to Virginia Beach, Alex and his mom have no time to escape. Alex has to make the difficult decision to trust his new friends Ė putting his life, and theirs, in danger.
Varrato knows his target audience and what they find interesting. His short novel Fakie will interest teenage boys with its skateboarding, paintball and intrigue. Teenagers will relate to the novelís language which includes terms like "ollies" and "kickflips." Varratoís references are contemporary and reflect modern teenage life. For instance, in Alexís attempt to escape from his pursuers, he uses video phones, YouTube and MySpace. These references are also realistic. For example, in one passage, Steve (his fatherís murderer) demands his cronies use Google Earth to find Alex and his mother. Rather than create an unrealistic scenario Steveís underlings are forced to explain the limitations of Google Earth and why it will not help them.
Varrato creates a believable character in an extraordinary situation and draws the reader in with expert storytelling. With its fast pace and short chapters, Fakie is a book that will be picked up and read to its end by reluctant readers. Varrato limits profane language to words such as "jerk" and "punk." On a cautionary note, however, there is violence throughout the book with people being murdered, assaulted and kidnapped. These aspects of the book though make Alexís situation realistic and make Fakie a more compelling read for the target audience.
Lori Giles-Smith is an Assistant Librarian at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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