________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 39 . . . . June 8, 2012


The Imposter.

Gary Blackwood.
Markham, ON: Red Deer Press/Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2012.
198 pp., trade pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-0-88995-478-6.

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Kay Weisman.

***˝ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy



Ever since this whole masquerade began, he’d been justifying deception after deception by telling himself he was just playing a part, no different from all the other parts he’d played. But he understood now that there was a big difference. When you were acting on stage, you had the audience’s consent to lie to them. They knew perfectly well that it was all made up, but they chose to accept it, for as long as the show lasted.

Real life didn’t work that way. When you were dealing with real people and not characters in a play, you had to believe that they were actually telling the truth. Without that one simple ground rule, you could never be sure of anything. What kind of world would it be if doctors told patients whatever suited their purpose? If teachers filled their students with false information? If politicians said whatever their constituents wanted to hear . . . well, okay, they were living in that world already.

After 14 year old actor Ryan Waite muffs an audition for Les Mis, he meets Herschel Burton, a shady private investigator who wants to make some big money—with Ryan’s help. The case involves an ailing millionaire desperate to reconnect with his estranged son before he dies; Ryan’s part will be to impersonate 16 year old Allen Kurz for two weeks. Desperate for money (Ryan’s single mother is an unemployed alcoholic), Ryan accepts, but he soon finds himself unprepared for this 24/7 role. Further complicating matters, Allen’s father turns out to be a decent guy, his half sister idolizes him, and stepmother Ollie feels threatened by this potential new family member. While Ryan is rehearsing a gracious exit from this impossible part, the real Allen phones home—making it imperative that Ryan leave immediately.

     Set in 1990s Toronto and Halifax, Blackwood’s latest novel brims with mystery, intrigue, and theatrical drama. Ryan approaches the impersonation the way an actor prepares for a part—by trying to get inside the head of the character he is to play. That he succeeds for as long as he does is a credit to Ryan’s acting skills; it’s the omissions and falsehoods in Burton’s background information that trip him up in the end. Side plots involving Ryan’s own father (who disappeared when he was a baby) and the real Allen Kurz (who Burton first insists is dead, then later admits could not be found) add to the story’s suspense. Blackwood’s message about the importance of empathy—both in real life and in creating a character—is delivered subtly, along with the insight that lying with permission (as happens in a book or play) is very different from lying in real life. The Imposter will be popular with Blackwood fans, as well as those with thespian interests.

Highly Recommended.

Kay Weisman recently completed her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from the University of British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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