Booktalk for DOUBLE IDENTITY by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Bethany’s parents have been acting really anxious lately, but they won’t tell her what’s wrong. Then one day they hustle her into the car. Her dad drives, and her mom cries. For 15 hours straight.

When they finally stop, it’s late at night, and they’re in some random town four states from home. They pull up to a house, and her dad goes up and knocks. The lights come on, and a small woman opens the door. When she sees Bethany’s dad, she looks stunned—and then she throws her arms around him in a hug.

Bethany rolls down the car window and tries to hear their conversation. She can only catch bits of it.

She hears the woman say, “You know I’d do anything for you.”

“You’d do anything?” Bethany’s dad says. “Even now? After—”

“Even now,” the woman says firmly.

Bethany hears her own name a few times. “Bethany is…Bethany does…” Then the woman seems to ask a question, and the dad’s response is loud and flustered. “Oh, no! She doesn’t know anything about Elizabeth.”

Bethany’s parents leave her with this woman—her aunt Myrlie, it turns out. They tell Bethany, “You’ll be safe here.” Then they drive away without her.

Bethany doesn’t know why her parents have left her here, when they’ll be back, or why some of the people in the town look at her like they’re seeing a ghost.

 

Genre: science fiction

Grades 5-8.

 

Anna’s take on it:

I booktalked this for fifth and sixth graders last fall. I didn’t see the across-the-board “I must read this” response that I witnessed with Haddix’s more recent Under Their Skin, but it still gathered quite a bit of interest. In one fifth grade class, the teacher had the kids vote on their next read aloud from the list I’d just booktalked. Double Identity was the top winner by far, with 16 out of 27 students voting for it.

I first read Double Identity a few years ago. I was pleased, on re-reading it, that this 2005 title holds up pretty well. There are some technology-related references that are out of date (popping a video into the VCR), but the story remains suspenseful and engaging.