COUNTERFEIT SON by Elaine Marie Alphin


Age Range: 14 & up
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In a kind of Talented Mr. Ripley with a brutal back-story and a more moral protagonist, Alphin (Toasters, 1998, etc.) mines the provocative field of identity, memory, and lies. Fourteen-year-old Cameron Miller had been the virtual slave of Pop, an evil man who got his jollies by torturing and killing young boys. Cameron, who is more intact, psychologically, than seems possible for a victim of such severe, long-term abuse, survived by being totally obedient. During his long hours of imprisonment in the basement, Cameron read and reread all of Pop’s files, which detailed the lives and families of the various boys Pop murdered. A wealthy family of hobbyist sailors captured Cameron’s imagination—“at first because of the sailboats” and “in the end, because of their money”—and after Pop is killed by the police, Cameron claims to be their missing son, Neil Lacey. The police are skeptical, but the senior Laceys are overjoyed and immediately accept him as theirs. Alphin convincingly delineates the ambivalence felt by Neil’s siblings, and her portrayal of how Neil’s disappearance and reappearance all but destroyed the family dynamic is first-rate. The novel bumps up the suspense a notch when one of Pop’s criminal cronies shows up and threatens not only Cameron’s newfound security but the safety of the other Lacey children as well. The resolution tries to have it both ways and the ending is more than a little improbable. Still, an engrossing, suspenseful novel that is sure to keep the reader glued to the page. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-15-202645-2
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2000


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