Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Review: Fake ID – Lamar Giles

Fake ID – Lamar Giles

Nick Pearson is hiding in plain sight . . . 
My name isn’t really Nick Pearson. 
I shouldn’t tell you where I’m from or why my family moved to Stepton, Virginia. 
I shouldn’t tell you who I really am, or my hair, eye, and skin color. 
And I definitely shouldn’t tell you about my friend Eli Cruz and the major conspiracy he was about to uncover when he died—right after I moved to town. About how I had to choose between solving his murder with his hot sister, Reya, and “staying low-key” like the Program has taught me. About how moving to Stepon changed my life forever. 
But I’m going to.

Review: Lamar Giles is a cofounder of We Need Diverse Books, which is one of the best things that ever happened to children’s literature, so I was excited when I got the opportunity to read his debut young adult novel.

The narrator, Nick Pearson, hasn’t had the easiest life. His father got the family in so much trouble that they had to enter the Witness Protection Program. Nick was forced to change his identity and move to Stepton, Virginia. (Which sounds a lot like Stepford, so you know something is rotten here.) When Nick’s new classmates start dying, and his father starts behaving suspiciously, Nick begins to wonder if old enemies have caught up with his family.

I don’t read a lot of thrillers. I don’t even remember the last time I read one. It’s not my favorite genre, but I’m glad I gave Fake ID a try. Nick is an intriguing character because he hasn’t had a typical childhood. His father worked for a dangerous criminal, and Nick has seen more than any kid should. When Nick gets to Stepton, he wants to stay “low-key,” but he immediately draws the attention of the hottest girl in school; her nerdy, wannabe-journalist twin brother; and her dangerously jealous ex-boyfriend. It’s hard to be “low-key” around people like that. The cast of characters quickly drew me into the story. I wanted to know what kind of trouble they’d get themselves in.  

“You don't have to know someone your whole life to know them. Not really. Lonely is the same everywhere.” – Fake ID

The story centers on the murder of Eli Cruz, the wannabe-journalist who started investigating something he shouldn’t. The mystery is compelling and fast-paced. I read most of this book in a day because I wanted to know who murdered a teenager. The identity of the murderer completely surprised me. This book is definitely a page-turner with a lot of twists.

The reason I don’t like thrillers is that they usually lack depth. I want books that make me think about the world in new ways. Thrillers are often so focused on action that there isn’t much else going on. Unfortunately, that’s the problem I had with Fake ID. There is a ton of action and not much else.

The characters and their relationships feel very shallow to me. I’m especially disappointed with the only female main character, Reya Cruz. All I know about her is that she’s Latina, she’s a twin, and she’s beautiful. Other than her appearance, I don’t know why Nick wants to be in a relationship with her. The story doesn’t go into depth about any of the other characters, either. You have the rich boy who throws great parties, the pure-evil bully and his cronies, the nerdy boy who doesn’t have any friends. Even the narrator isn’t as complex as I wanted. Since the characters didn’t feel real to me, I never developed a connection to them. They were often in danger, but I couldn’t make myself care.

One thing I did like about the characters is that they come from a variety of different cultural backgrounds. It’s interesting to see the similarities and differences between their cultures.

“Our backgrounds were different, but the traditions of death surpassed culture. Everyone mourned with food.” – Fake ID

I think this book would be good for reluctant readers. It’s plot-driven and doesn’t have a lot of details that slow down the story. It’s pretty much all action, all the time.

Fake ID reminded me of all the reasons why I don’t read thrillers. I didn’t love this book, but if you’re a thriller fan, it’s probably worth checking out. 


  1. AJ, I agree that this story focused more on action than characterization. But, like you said, that seems to fit this genre. Can you think of an exception?

    1. Nope, can’t think of an exception. I don’t read many thrillers because the characters usually don’t feel real to me. If the people don’t feel real, I have a hard time caring about the rest of the story.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. I'd put up a vote for Caleb Roehrig's Last Seen Leaving as a YA thriller that goes beyond plot. Not, like, FAR beyond plot, but definitely involves character development. But it sounds like this might be a good addition to my classroom library.

  3. How have I not heard of this?!?! Added it to my TBR now. Thanks!