CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 21. . . .February 4, 2011.
Doppelganger. (Nitty Gritty Novels).
Rosedale, NZ: Pearson Education (Available from the author, 76 Dolphin Bay, Regina, SK, S4S 4Z8), 2010.
130 pp., pbk., $13.00 plus shipping.
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Libby McKeever.
Although Connor Barclay is spending his Easter holidays cruising the Mediterranean to Greece and Turkey, he’s unhappy. His father was unable to come at the last minute due to work demands, and Connor is stuck in a tiny cabin with his mom and annoying little sister, Alix. It is apparent that Connor’s anger is really a reflection of his feelings of missing his father as his emails home haven’t been answered and Connor misses an opportunity to speak to him on the phone. Connor retreats to his electronic game, Doppelganger, where two digital participants try to best each other, but he can’t help but notice that in his game the “guys looked so much like twins it was hard to tell the difference between his character and the bad guy.”
This foreshadowing leads to the crux of the story as Connor notices a boy who looks so much like him that this boy could be his twin. Shortly after this happening, Connor’s passenger ID card goes missing. His mom, already unhappy with how Connor has been treating Alix, is angry when unexplained Internet charges appear on their bill. Soon other passengers and shopkeepers in Greece and Turkey are blaming Connor for things he didn’t do.
A sudden uneasy feeling made him look back at the crowd of people still waiting on the other side of the guide rope. Some kids hadn’t stayed with their parents. Little boys raced back and forth across the huge room. Teenage girls clustered in groups, talking. There was boy staring right at him.
Connor’s neck prickled. He stared back, and couldn’t stop. The boy was about his age. He didn’t have a backpack or jacket, like most of the travellers.
It was like looking into a mirror.
Kind of creepy actually. Connor shivered.
All of a sudden, the boy grinned. As if he’d just figured something out. Then he melted into the crowd.
“Connor” Mum called. “Is something wrong?”
Shaken, he hurried to catch up with his mum and little sister as they headed up the gangway to the Artemis II. The air smelled of salt. And fish.
At the same time Connor is getting into trouble, he begins to notice that his look-a-like is wearing his clothes, and Connor realizes he must be sneaking into their cabin to take his shirts from the dirty laundry pile. He also notices the boy doesn’t seem to have a family and doesn’t speak English. He is, in fact, Niko, a local Greek boy who has stowed away on the Artemis II. After accusing the boy, Connor takes matters into his own hands, resulting in a chase though the Grand Bazaar, getting lost and being accused of shoplifting by the local police. Finally, with help from Alix who has also noticed the stranger, they convince their mother of the fact that it was Niko who stole Connor’s ID and has been impersonating him.
At the conclusion to the story, Connor is in the room alone one evening lying quietly on his top bunk, and he confronts Niko as the boy enters the room. It becomes apparent that the only reason Niko has stowed away is so he can visit his father in Thira on the island of Santorini, their ship’s next port of call. Because missing your father is something to which Connor can relate, he forgives Niko, and they spend the last evening exploring the immense ship together.
Author Alison Lohans has written the story in the third person, but she alternates scenes with second person narrative. This imitates the interactive fiction style of the video games Connor is playing though it may be a little confusing for some readers. The story is fast paced, with lots of interesting local scenes and colour. There are some unanswered details that may trouble some readers: there is no explanation of how this boy could look exactly like Connor, and there is a lack of consequences for Niko’s actions.
The author’s choice of naming the cruise ship the Artemis II, after the Greek goddess, is recognition of her role as guardian of young children and the twin sister to Apollo. With this meaning in mind, it reasonable that the Artemis should become a safe haven for Niko, Connor’s "twin".
Doppelganger is a novel in the” Nitty Gritty Series.” Lohans has written other books in this series, including River Rat and This Land We Call Home which won the 2008 Saskatchewan Book Awards Young Adult award. Lohans has written several books for children and young adults and has twice won the Young Readers' Choice Award for the South Saskatchewan Reading Council/SaskatchewanWriters Guild. Her newest YA novel is Collapse of the Veil, the first book in the “Passage though Time” series.
Libby McKeever is the Youth Services Coordinator at Whistler Public Library in Whistler, BC.
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