Saturday, August 18, 2012

Double by Jenny Valentine

Chap is a sixteen year old boy living on the streets of London. After being thrown into a storage room for fighting at a shelter, he is confronted by two workers, Ginny and Gordon, who believe he is a missing boy, Cassiel Roadnight. Cassiel vanished two years ago from his home and has never been seen again.

When Chap sees the photograph of Cassiel he can hardly believe it - the fourteen year old boy in the picture looks just like he did at fourteen, except that he's smiling and at fourteen Chap didn't have much to smile about. Chap decides to play along, assume Cassiel's identity, and become a part of Cassiel's family. This family includes a mother who's dependent upon prescription drugs, an older sister, Edie, and an older brother, Frank. Frank is a banker and is well off.

Chap must always be on his guard because he doesn't know anything about Cassiel's life. He's afraid that he will say the wrong thing or act wrongly and that will give him away.
"What are you afraid of," she said. "Daylight?"
No. I'm afraid of you. I'm afraid of myself, of whatever it is I'm going to do or say to make it all go wrong. I'm desperately trying to avoid that moment and walking straight toward it, all at the same time.
But if Chap has a secret, he soon discovers that the Roadnights have their own secrets too. There is a mystery surrounding Cassiel's disappearance that no one will talk about. It's only when Chap unexpectedly meets one Cassiel's acquaintances, Floyd, and Helen reveals a family secret, do the pieces start to come together, and Chap learns who he really is and what may have happened to Cassiel. Is he willing to expose his identity and solve the mystery of Cassiel's disappearance?

Told in the believable voice of Chap, Double alternates between Chap's past and his present life. Chap is a well drawn, sympathetic character mainly because of the difficult life he's had. He knows assuming Cassiel's identity is wrong on many levels, but his desire to have a family, an identity, and a life are simply too overwhelming. Through Chap's narration we get a definite sense of his fear of discovery, which at times is overwhelming, and his conflicting emotions about taking on Cassiel's identity.
They spoke at the same time, almost. They were nothing but questions. I couldn't answer them. My disguise was paper-thin. I didn't know who Cassiel Roadnight was or what he'd say. If I spoke, I'd eat away at it, I'd just show myself lurking underneath, the rotten core.
The novel is well paced with author, Jenny Valentine, gradually weaving both stories together, connecting the characters and the events, tying up the loose ends quickly and neatly in what is a complex storyline.

Double which was originally published as The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight in Great Britain in 2010, touches on themes of identity, loss, abandonment, and love.

Book Details:
Double by Jenny Valentine
New York: Hyperion 2012

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