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by David Stahler Jr.

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Doppelgangers are monsters, hardwired for murder.

They are not supposed to have doubts, but this one does. He wishes he could be different. More human, maybe. But even that can't stop him from killing people so he can take their places and live their lives. He has to do it; it's who he is.

But when the doppelganger murders a small-town teenager, assumes his

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Doppelgangers are monsters, hardwired for murder.

They are not supposed to have doubts, but this one does. He wishes he could be different. More human, maybe. But even that can't stop him from killing people so he can take their places and live their lives. He has to do it; it's who he is.

But when the doppelganger murders a small-town teenager, assumes his shape, and takes over his life, he's shocked by the world he steps into. Engulfed in a whirlwind of peer pressure, messy family dynamics, and a provocative relationship with a beautiful girl, he quickly learns that there's more than one way to be human, and many ways to be a monster.

Told in the tortured voice of a most extraordinary teen, this contemporary gothic romance brews a captivating combination of violence, desire, and atonement. Here is the story of a monster yearning for a human life.

Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2006: In this spooky horror story, doppelgangers kill people and take over their bodies and their lives. Our protagonist is one of these terrible creatures, but he has empathy and scruples. When he is attacked by a small-town teenager named Chris, kills him, and takes over his life, he falls in love with Chris's girlfriend Amber and does what he can to make life better for Chris's unhappy family. Chris's abusive father has terrorized the family and passed on his propensity for violence to his son, a star linebacker but also an abusive boyfriend, the doppelganger realizes. "There's more than one way to be a monster," the doppelganger comes to understand. Is redemption possible? When another, evil doppelganger comes along, Chris must make a life-changing decision. This Gothic tale from the author of the YA novels A Gathering of Shades and Truesight references Macbeth, but there's also enough gruesome detail to appeal to fantasy fans who aren't into Shakespeare. It's a riveting tale. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
Children's Literature
A doppelganger is a double; in legend it is often a harbinger of death. In this book, doppelgangers are actually a race of beings that exist by killing humans and taking over their lives. In general, they do not question the need for killing. But the hero of this story is different. "Weak" and "sensitive" his mother called him—how will he make it on his own? His mother has kicked him out of the cabin they have called home. He is wandering, from the woods to the railroad yard, where he boards a train. Does he miss his mother? He hardly knows. She was a different person each time he saw her—a different face, a different personality, sometimes gentle, sometimes mean, never loving. He will kill of course, it is in his makeup. The first time, he kills a dying man so that it does not seem to matter as much. For his second kill, he kills a teenage boy, Chris, and has to take over his life. Physically, the nameless doppelganger is an exact double, so it should not be that difficult. Chris is a football star with a beautiful girlfriend. He does well enough in school, although not so well that the doppelganger will be noticed. From the very beginning, things start to go wrong: Football is a much more physically violent sport than he expected. The coach is furious when his star linebacker does not follow his plan. Chris is benched for the next game, making his father furious. There may have been a scout out there; now, how can he expect to get a scholarship? His parents cannot afford to send him to college on their own. His father's fury turns to physical violence, not only against Chris, but against his mother and his younger sister, Echo. Shift the scene to his first encounter withAmber, the girlfriend—at least Chris thought she was his girlfriend. Amber is not so sure. She loves him, but she has begun to be afraid of him. He has not abused her—yet. Shift the scene again, to the schoolroom. The English class is reading Macbeth, and while the original Chris may not have thought about it very deeply, this Chris sees parallels in his own life. Now he feels torn; he knows that he will have to kill again soon, but he is actually beginning to love these people. What is he to do? The introduction of a female doppelganger is a little contrived, as is the final confrontation with his father and their possible reconciliation. Despite these problems, in general, this is thought-provoking read. Recommended. 2006, Eos/HarperCollins, and Ages 12 up.
—Judy Silverman
After sixteen years of being abused and neglected by his mother-who made him strangle a puppy-a young man leaves his isolated home in the woods to make his way in the world. Unlike other young men, however, he is a shape-shifting doppelganger, destined to stalk and kill humans, taking over his victim's lives until holding the form becomes too painful. As hard as he tries to resist his natural urges, he ends up killing a drunk, belligerent high school football player, Chris Parker. He falls in love with the rhythms and people of Chris's life, including his girlfriend, Amber, as he tries to fix the things that Chris never got the chance to fix. As his new life and his old life collide, "Chris" must decide if he can give up everyone he has come to love in order to protect them. This brooding story of literally stepping into someone else's shoes combines romance, horror, and angst to create a distinctive story of redemption. The abusive relationships in Chris's family are portrayed with realism and sensitivity. Although the novel has moments that require a certain suspension of disbelief and the final conflict seems rushed, the novel is an enjoyable read that should greatly appeal to fans of the supernatural and is recommended for public and school libraries. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, HarperCollins, 272p., and PLB Ages 12 to 18.
—Angela Semifero
School Library Journal
Gr 9-Up-What makes someone a monster-actions or instincts? In this story, a doppelganger is a shape-shifter that kills its victims, claims their identity, and takes over their lives from a month up to a year. When high school jock Chris Parker attacks a helpless old man by the tracks, he makes a fatal error. The doppelganger that takes his place is a different person. As this Chris Parker learns about the family he is living with, he begins to ask some probing questions-does being a monster mean hitting your family, ignoring abuse, or accepting it? If such behavior is instinctual, does that make it acceptable? As the teen embraces his current form and falls for the deceased Chris's girlfriend, he chooses to do something about the monsters around him. Can love make a difference in life-even if you are a monster? Does everyone deserve a second chance? This is a compelling horror story about making choices and the difference that certain decisions can make in life.-June H. Keuhn, Corning East High School, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
What teenage boy doesn't feel uncomfortable in his own skin? Who hasn't wished he could wake up as the high-school football hero, dating the prom queen? Our hero (who goes nameless throughout the majority of the story) suffers from this insecurity more than most: He's a doppelganger, born to kill humans and then take on his victim's persona for a period of time before moving on to the next life. Pushed out of his isolated childhood refuge by an uncaring, but true to nature, mother, he takes his first plunge into the world of humans, not wanting to live the life he's been prepared for, but pushed into it by young bullies. All of a sudden, he is the football hero (if only he could figure out how to play the game) and falling in love with the most beautiful girl at Bakerville High. Things should have been great, but it doesn't take long for him to realize that walking in someone else's skin doesn't mean an easy life, because everyone, even football heroes, has problems. An interesting read that deals with growing pains, peer pressure and making decisions that might be unpopular, but are undoubtedly right. (Fantasy. 12-14)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
7.96(w) x 5.28(h) x 0.64(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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By David Stahler Jr.

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 David Stahler Jr.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060872330

Chapter One

I met Amber two days after I throttled her boyfriend, Chris Parker. A week later we were in love. Or rather, I was in love with her. It took a while on her part. After all, she thought I was him.

Let me explain -- I am a doppelganger.

Not many people have heard of us before. We're a pretty secretive race. So secretive, in fact, that I don't even know that much about us myself. Most of what I know about my kind I learned from my mother, and she wasn't all that informative. I can't even tell people my name. I don't have one. Not one I was born with, anyway. My mother always said names are worthless to a doppelganger. So the whole time I was growing up, she was she, and I was me, and that's as far as it ever got.

The problem is that doppelgangers are loners. We don't keep in touch. We don't call each other or send postcards. We would never e-mail. There's no annual doppelganger convention or home base or family reunion. When you're a doppelganger, you're on your own.

Maybe there just isn't much to know about us. We're pretty simple, actually -- primitive, one might say -- which is how we've managed to survive for so long.

But there are a few things to know. The most important is that we're shape-shifters. We can change the way we look,the sound of our voice; we can even change our sex, though we usually prefer not to. We're like chameleons, but taken to a higher level.

And it's a good thing we are shape-shifters, because in our natural state we're ugly as sin. Really hideous, to the point where we can barely stand to look at ourselves, let alone others of our kind. A doppelganger mother will even turn from her own child in disgust. I'm sure it's hard to imagine such a thing -- after all, a human mother will love even her ugliest child -- but with us it's true. It must be an evolutionary thing or something. If so, it works pretty well -- a doppelganger can rarely be found in its natural form. I can count on one hand the number of times I saw my mother in her own skin. Who knows, maybe I've just blocked the other times out of my head. Between the mottled, almost transparent flesh, the bulging eyes, and a face with no nose or mouth other than a few slimy slits, you've got the makings of a real freak. Actually, all those drawings of aliens recreated from people's so-called abductions -- those things with the egg heads and spindly arms -- they're not aliens, they're doppelgangers. And those people who think they were abducted didn't go anywhere -- they were just lucky enough to have survived. That's my theory, anyway.

Which brings me to another important doppelganger fact: We're killers. Of people, that is. We prey on your race -- stalking you, watching your moves, the places you go, learning the patterns of your life. Then, when we think we've got it down, we find a nice quiet little corner to strangle you in and take over. At least that's how it's supposed to work. Sometimes things get a little messy.

But if we're really good, no one can tell it's not you. We look like you, sound like you, even act like you. We take your life and live it in your place. And then, when we get bored or someone seems to be getting too close to the truth, we move on. Though, to be honest, we can only hold a form so long before we start to lose it. It takes a lot of strength to hang on to somebody's life. After a while it even starts to hurt.

Of course, the letting go can be just as bad. Trust me, I know.

Does this sound awful? Are we evil creatures? Monsters? I've been asking myself the question since I was old enough to wonder, and I still haven't figured it out. My mother would say no. In her view, our people have nothing to do with the concepts of good or evil. "Foolish human conventions," she once called them. In her mind, we do what we do because that's who we are.

"Are we bad?" I remember asking one afternoon as I watched her break the neck of a rooster for our supper. I was eight, I think, and had recently learned the truth about doppelganger ways. "Are we bad for killing?"

She looked at me in disgust. "You've been watching too much TV," she said, tossing me the limp bird to pluck. "That's a foolish question. The kind a human would ask."

"Well, are we?" I pressed.

"Is the tiger evil when it kills the zebra? Is the shark malicious for biting the swimmer? Does the bee sting out of wickedness?" she said.

I took her meaning. She felt it was our nature to kill -- nothing more, nothing less. And it's true, it's not like we doppelgangers want to take over the world or enslave the human race or anything like that. Far from it -- we prefer to live quietly, below the radar. Still, it troubled me. Not because I didn't believe her, but because I did. Because I believed a doppelganger was supposed to obey its nature. That's what bothered me. For even back then, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to live by killing. Not like her. Anyway, that's about it. There's only one other important thing to know about doppelgangers that I can think of. Since we keep to ourselves, we don't run into each other very often, but when we do, we know it. Even in human form, we can tell. It's like we can sniff each other out. If two doppelgangers of the same sex happen to meet, they'll more than likely ignore each other and move on. But if a heganger and sheganger come together, they're going to mate. It's practically unavoidable -- nature's way of ensuring the continuation of the species, I guess. My mother told me all about it not long before she kicked me out.


Excerpted from Doppelganger by David Stahler Jr. Copyright © 2006 by David Stahler Jr.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

David Stahler Jr. received his bachelor's degree in English from Middlebury College in 1994 and later earned a graduate degree from the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program at Dartmouth College. His other provocative works for young adults include Truesight, The Seer, and Otherspace. He teaches in Vermont, where he lives with his wife and two children.

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