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Thirteen-year-old Bethany's parents have always been overprotective, but when they suddenly drop out of sight with no explanation, leaving her with an aunt she never knew existed, Bethany uncovers shocking secrets that make her question everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.
"[A] twisting plot and spine-tingling creepiness."
My mother is crying.
She is trying to do it silently, but from the back seat of the car I can see her shoulders heaving up and down, her entire body racked by sobs. I look out the window at the darkness flowing past our car, and all the pinpoints of light on the horizon seem far, far away. My mother always cries, now. In the beginning, back in the summer, I used to try to comfort her, used to ask her -- stupidly -- "Is something wrong?" And she'd force her face into some tortured mask of fake happiness, her smile trembling, her eyes still brimming with tears: "Oh no, dear, nothing's wrong. Would you like some milk and cookies?"
That was before today, before my father hustled the three of us into the car and we drove for hours and hours across unfamiliar states, the light fading and the roads we are on getting smaller and smaller, more and more remote.
I do not know why my mother is crying. I do not know where we are going.
I could ask about our destination, if nothing else. A thousand times today I've started to open my mouth, started to squeak out, "Can you tell me...?" But then I'd look into the front seat, at my mother's silent shaking, my father's grim profile, the mournful bags beneath his eyes, and all the questions I might ask seemed abusive. Assault and battery, a question mark used like a club. My parents are old and fragile. I'd have to be heartless to want to hurt them.
A red traffic signal flashes overhead, and my father comes to a complete stop and stares at the empty crossroads for whole minutes before inching forward. He's an insanely careful driver. My mother is too -- or was, before she started crying all the time and stopped doing anything else.
I turn my head, looking away from both my parents. We're on the outskirts of a small town now. I squint out the window at a dark sign half-hidden in bushes: Welcome to...It's S -- something, something -- field, the letters in the middle covered by branches. Springfield? Summerfield? I've lost track of what state we're in. Indiana? Illinois? Could we possibly have crossed over into Iowa? Maybe one of those I-states has a cluster of seasonal villages I've never heard of: Springfield, Summerfield, Winterfield, Autumnfield. Maybe Mom and Dad are just taking me on yet another educational field trip, like when we went to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.
I can't quite believe this, but the thought cheers me up a little. Even educational field trips are better than sobbing and grimness.
A row of fast-food restaurants glows on the other side of my window, and this cheers me too, even though I'm not hungry. Wendy's, McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell -- so well lit, so safe, so sane, so ordinary. I'm so busy wallowing in the comfort of their garish lights that I almost miss hearing the first words spoken in our car in hours.
"Those are new," my father murmurs.
I glance again at the golden arches outside my window. Nothing looks particularly new to me. But...has my father been in this town before?
My mother doesn't answer him. Still, I peer out the window with renewed interest. In a matter of minutes, we come to a town square, with a soaring courthouse and a quaint row of shops. The shops are closed, their signs dark. Spring/Summerfield has gone into hibernation for the night or the winter or maybe even the entire century. Our headlights throw a brief glow on a flaking-away billboard on the side of a building, and I could swear part of the sign is still advertising a circus from 2006. Years ago.
My father turns onto a residential street, turns again, then once more. He pulls up to the curb and shuts off the engine in front of a dark house surrounded by huge trees. The sudden silence is horrifying, and it seems to catch my mother off guard. A tiny whimper escapes her, the sound amplified in the stillness. Surely my father hears her now; surely he and I can't go on pretending she isn't crying.
"Wait here," my father says. He does not look at Mom or me. He gets out of the car and gently shuts the door. He stands still for a second, looking at the house. Then he opens the wrought-iron gate and walks slowly toward the front door.
The streetlights illuminate little more than a square or two of sidewalk, so I can barely see my father as he hobbles up the porch steps. I squint. I imagine that he is pressing a doorbell now, maybe tapping lightly on a screen door. All I can hear is my mother gulping in air in the front seat. Her shudders are practically convulsive now. I reach out, planning to put a comforting hand on her shoulder. But before I can touch her, she plunges forward, burying her face in her hands, sobbing harder.
I pull back.
Up on the porch, a light clicks on, warm and bright and startling after all the darkness. I can see everything on the porch now. It's enormous, wrapping around the entire front of the house and the sides as well. Sometimes I play a game where I pretend I'm a movie set designer: This porch would fit very well into one of those heartwarming family dramas set in the early 1900s. I can picture a dozen children dressed in lacy dresses and knickers lounging on all the white wicker chairs, whiling away long summer afternoons playing marbles and checkers, whispering innocent secrets, laughing at innocent jokes.
That porch is a happy-looking place, and my father -- burdened, stoop-shouldered, cadaverously thin -- doesn't seem to belong on it.
The door opens and a woman appears. I can't see her face very well, but she has white hair and is wearing a plush red dressing gown. Or robe -- I know it's just an ordinary robe, but I've gotten into that old-fashioned mindset. The woman surprises me by stepping out onto the porch and throwing her arms around my father. He stands there awkwardly, like he's not sure he wants to be hugged. He glances back anxiously toward our car, toward Mom and me.
The woman releases him from the hug but still keeps one hand on his arm. She says something I can't hear. I glance toward the front seat again, where my mother still has her face buried, trying not to hear or see anything. I reach over and grip a knob on the door beside me. We are the only people I know who still have manual controls for rolling our car windows up and down. This is a fairly new car -- only a year old -- so my dad must have asked for the nonelectronic controls special. Maybe he even paid extra. Usually I'm embarrassed that my parents are so low-tech, but tonight I'm grateful. I roll down the window in total silence.
My father is answering the woman.
"Oh, Myr," he chokes out. "I hate having to ask this of you...."
He glances toward the car again, and I crouch down into the shadows, hoping it's too dark for him to see whether a window is open or closed. The woman pats his arm, cradling her hand against his elbow.
"You know I'd do anything for you and Hil," she says. I like her voice. It's throaty and rich, and if I were pretending to be a movie director instead of a set designer, I'd cast her in my historical drama as the wise old governess, or maybe the kindly housekeeper.
"You'd do anything?" My father repeats numbly. "Even now? After -- ?"
"Even now," the woman says firmly.
My father makes a garbled noise and then he begins sobbing, clutching the woman against him, weeping into her shoulder. Unlike my mother, my father does not cry quietly. His wails roll out like a wave of pain, and I scramble to roll up my window. My mother cannot hear that. I cannot bear to hear it myself. I am not used to my father's crying. I've had no time to harden my heart against him.
I sit still for a few minutes, breathing hard, staring at the back of my mother's seat. Crazy, all this is crazy. Why didn't they just let me go to school today, like usual? I latch on to that one word, "usual," and let it float through my mind a few more times. I call out its brother and sister words and form a comforting litany. Usual. Ordinary. Normal. Safe. Sane. Typical. Sane, safe, typical, ordinary, usual, normal.
My parents have never been normal....That's a traitorous thought, and I hunt it down and stomp it dead.
I glance back at the scene on the porch, and I'm relieved to see that my father has gotten control of himself again. He's not clutching the woman in the red robe anymore. They're not even touching, just talking earnestly. I roll down my window again.
At first, their voices are indistinct -- it's like they're trying not to be overheard. I hear my own name once or twice: "Bethany is...Bethany does...," but the rest of the sentence is always lower-pitched, and I can never tell what my father thinks I am or do. Then the woman asks something and my father shakes his head violently, vehemently.
"Oh, no," he says, loud enough for me to hear, loud enough for me to be sure of what he's saying. "She doesn't know anything about Elizabeth."
Elizabeth? I think. Something about the name or the way he says it stabs at me. Whoever she is, Elizabeth is important.
My father is still shaking his head, and the woman gives her shoulders a slight shrug.
"All right, then," she says.
"Thank you," my father says. He retreats from the woman and the light beaming out from her porch, and I think, That's it, now we can go home. But I barely have time to roll up the window before my father's standing beside the car, leaning down, opening my door.
"Bethany, honey?" he says, and his voice is all wrong -- too hearty, too cheerful, too fake. "We're going to let you stay with your aunt Myrlie for a while. What would you think of that?"
Aunt Myrlie? I think. Aunt? I thought all my parents' brothers and sisters were dead. I thought my family was just Mom, Dad, and me.
My father doesn't wait for my answer. He's hunched over the trunk now, pulling out a suitcase. Just one. Mine.
This is crazy, because I am twelve years old, almost thirteen, but I've never spent a single night away from my parents. I've been invited to sleepovers, of course, but there was always some reason my parents had to come and pick me up early -- I had a swim meet the next day, my mother didn't want me tired out for school, it just wasn't a good time....Three of my friends went away to camp last summer, and I asked to go too, but I didn't ask very persistently because I knew what the answer would be, the same one I always got: No. Maybe another time. When you're older. I'd thought "when you're older" was just code words for "never," but here my father is, plunking my suitcase down on the sidewalk. It sits there looking alone and abandoned, and my father moves back to my car door to see why I haven't gotten out.
"Bethany?" he says.
"I have a social studies test tomorrow," I say. "First period."
And that's a ridiculous thing to say, because even if we drove all night, we wouldn't be home in time for me to make it to school first period. But I guess all day long, as I watched my mother cry, as I watched the unfamiliar landscapes fly by, I'd been holding on to the notion that however strange today was, tomorrow would be normal again, just another ordinary school day.
"Bethany," my father says again, and some of the fakeness has chipped away and I can hear the ache in every syllable of my name. "You have to stay here so I can get help for your mother."
The emotion in his voice is completely raw now. I wince, the way I would if I were staring at an open, gaping wound. I could ask plenty of questions -- Where are you planning to go to get help for Mom? Why didn't you just have me stay with one of my friends back home? Who's this Aunt Myrlie, anyway? Who's Elizabeth? But I can't even bear to meet my father's eyes.
I get out of the car.
My father circles around to the front and opens my mother's door.
"Hillary?" he says, too loudly. "We're here. It's time to say good-bye to Bethany."
Dad motions for me to come and stand next to him. So I'm there in time to see Mom staring dazedly out of the car.
"Nooo," she wails. And then she hurls herself at me, and wraps her arms around me so tightly I can barely breathe. I am taller than my mom now -- I grew seven inches in the past year -- and it crosses my mind that my height may be the only thing saving me from suffocation.
Mom buries her face in my shoulder, and I put my arms around her. But she's weeping so hard it's like trying to hold on to an earthquake. Her sobs shake us both. She won't let go until my father peels her hands off me.
"I'm sorry," he says, and I can't tell if he's apologizing to me or to her. She collapses back into the car and he leads me away. He retrieves my suitcase, he holds the gate open for me, we climb the porch stairs -- all of it feels like a bad dream. Maybe that's why I'm so docile, so obedient. In dreams you don't have choices, you just do what you do, and in the morning you comfort yourself with the idea that none of it really happened.
The woman -- Aunt Myrlie? -- gasps when I come into the light.
"Bethie?" she breathes incredulously. "Oh, Bethie -- "
"It's Bethany," I correct her, irritably. But I don't think she hears me because she's bounding across the porch and throwing her arms around me in total joy. I hold myself stiff, partly because she's a complete stranger and partly because I've just been released from my mother's sorrow-wracked hug and it's too much of a jolt to go from that to this spontaneous burst of delirious happiness. After a few seconds the woman releases me.
"Sorry," she mutters. "I forgot myself. You just look so much like..." She glances quickly at my father and lets her voice trail off.
"You see how it is," my father says gruffly.
The woman nods silently and now there are tears in her eyes too.
"Come on in," she says, holding the door open for us. I step across the threshold but my father doesn't follow. He looks down at the strip of metal dividing the wooden floor of the porch from the wooden floor of the foyer as if it's electrified and deadly. Or as if, once he crosses it, he can never leave again.
"I really should be going," he says, glancing back at the car and at Mom.
I step back toward my father. I've spooked myself thinking about dangerous, uncrossable doorways, and even though I am nearly thirteen I have to fight the urge to throw myself at my father's feet and wrap my arms around his legs and beg like a little child, "No, please, Daddy, don't go."
My father hands me my suitcase, like he knows what I want to do and that's his way of stopping me.
"You'll be fine with your aunt Myrlie," he says, the fake heartiness back in his voice. "And we won't be gone long."
"Will you be back for my birthday?" I say forlornly. I don't know why I ask that. My birthday is November 2, still more than a week away, and the question really does make me sound like a child. It's just that birthdays are a big deal in my family, and I'm not sure I can bear it if my parents are away then.
I fully expect my father to say, "Yes, dear. Of course we'll be back long before your birthday. With lots of presents." But I look up and my father is staring back at me in mute horror. He opens his mouth, but no sound comes out. He reaches out and brushes his fingers against my cheek, cradling my face in his hand. And then his hand slips away and he stumbles off the porch, down the walkway, back to the car. He moves like he's drunk, though he couldn't be. He's barely even eaten today, let alone had anything to drink. And I've been with him for the past fifteen hours. I would know.
Really, except for school, I've spent virtually every second of my life with my parents. How could I not know what's wrong with them?
How could they be leaving me now?
Copyright © 2005 by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Posted July 9, 2010
Best book I'v EVER EVER EVER read I swear I loved this book so much and i got sucked in so much that i could have been 1/2 naked in public walking on broken glass AND burning fire & Cole and not care as long as I had that book(that didn't really happen) but my sister stole it and I wouldn't come out 'till she gave it back and i still am reading it for the 25th time! i'd recommend it with out a sec. of hesitation!!!!
16 out of 20 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Okay, FABULOUS book. It's sort of dark but not in a violent way, so it's appropriate for younger readers if they're advanced. You can never predict what happens next, and there's always an aura of mystery surrounding it. I'm in sixth grade, I read it in fourth I think, and I believe if I was reading it now for the first time, it would be just as captivating. She's an awesome writer too, so I recommend her other stuff as well! If you like mysteries and science fiction, you will probably enjoy this, but you might also enjoy it even if you don't! She doesn't always write in this genre, one of her books is quite different. See "I Also Recommend" for her other titles I've read!
14 out of 16 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 5, 2010
Double identity, a book by Margaret Peterson Haddix, is creatively written with a different sense of style! Foreshadowing is rarely used, the characters are defiantly believable, and each are interesting in their own way. Bethany ( the main character ) is thirteen and has always seemed to notice that she was raised differently than most children. When she was younger, she was home schooled, always watched by her parents cautiously, and could never go out to play with other children. Even now at thirteen, Bethany can't stay home by herself, go to sleepovers, or even shop alone. All the symptoms of adults trying to hide something from their children. Another odd thing, is her mother always cries. "why?" is always the thought floating around in Bethany
s mind. She knows nothings clear, and when she gets stranded with a stranger that claims to be her aunt, she decides she can no longer wonder about things and keep it all inside. She has to ask questions and find some answers one way or another. Haddix creates an admirable character of Bethany that makes you want to know more and more about her. This whole book will fill your mind with wonder and confusion, that leads to unexpected answers in the end. There's always a new mystery occurring, a new discovery, or a new conflict. There are many pieces to the puzzle of this story that keep you glued and hungry for more pages! You'll enjoy every chapter, every page, and every word, as your eyes beg for more! New characters come into the story as you read, and you'll want to know more and more about each one. Bethany takes a difficult, hard, and amazing journey that leaves the ending of the story at a twist. A lot of this book is unexpected, amazing, and creative. You wont want to take your eyes off the bitter words of the pages!
8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 23, 2013
This is a super book! It is very suspensful! I read it in ONE NIGHT because I didn't want to stop. I would recommend this book to people who like to be sucked into a book. I love this author as well. Some books of hers that I like are: The Missing Series, The Shadow Children Series, Running out of Time, and Just Ella. I am reading more of her books! All people should read these books because they are not directed at kids or adults, but everyone! Please tap the button that says this helped!
Thanks for reading!
7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 4, 2011
Posted July 25, 2010
I am more of a romance reader than a science fiction reader, but this book was AWESOME!!!!! i totally recommend it!!!!!!! you can't guess what it's about until the book tells u!!!!!!!!!!!!! AMAZING read!!!!!!!
7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 30, 2010
it truly is a roller coaster, the author made it so when Bethany (the main character and the book is of her point of view) is confused you are also, not like other books where you already know whats happening and dont bother to read further or read the end. your gripped to the book untill the last page i promise you!, in the middle of the book bethany finds the answer to her question, making you think thats it for the book, no more issue. but your dead wrong, theres a twist i know i you wont expect!
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 2, 2012
This book just completely sucked me in so much, it wasn't even funny. I sped through this book in about an hour. You will not want to put it down. Buy this book. It is worth every penny.
5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 26, 2011
Posted November 27, 2007
This book Double Identity is by the author Margaret Peterson Haddix. This book mostly took place in a small town in Sanderfield, Illinois. A girl named Bethany was an only child but all a sudden one day her mother started crying all the time. It never seemed to bother Bethany until she started crying like every second. The one day her parents crammed her in the car and drove her to a place she¿s never known before but she ended up having a lot of connects with that side of the family that her parents dumped her off at. She her parents left her with a stranger she didn¿t know and left her behind and left no way to contact them. They disconnected their cell phones so Bethany couldn¿t call. In the story she never knew what to expect next. I really enjoyed this book. It has an outstanding plot to it and you could never predict what would happen next. It was so good that I could barley put down the book when I needed to because it¿s so remarkable. I would have to recommend this book more to girls because almost all the characters in the story are girls. I would also recommend this book if you have read another book by this author, or if you enjoy sitting at the edge of your seat of what would happen next. I would give this book a 5 out of 5 stars.
4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 23, 2012
To the person who wrote double idenity review. Im trying to know if it is a good book. I dont want to read the whole book from your stupid review.
3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2012
Overall I would give this book 4 stars. Once again Haddix has you on the edge of your seat. I read this in about 2 days and couldn't put it down.I recommend this book for kids 10 and up.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 17, 2012
Doulbe Indentity is my second favorite book. I just loved it. Its on eof those cant put it down book. You will find yourself getting lost in the story. When i was reading it nobody was able to get me away from it. Make the right choce and read this book. I loved it and you will too.
3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 3, 2012
Double Identity is about a girl who's parents cloned her. She lives her whole life not knowing she's one,until her thirteenth birthday when the original Elizabeth passed in 1991. Her parents start acting strange when the arrival of her thirteenth birthday comes. Her mother starts crying all the time, and one day they just drop her off at her "aunts" house, that she's never met. They don't explain anything to her, all she knows is what she overhead before she was left there. Her dad was speaking to her "aunt" saying: she doent know about elizabeth.
The book goes through her life at her "aunts" house. But while she's there, she finds out who she really is. And her parents past could mess all of their future.
This book is a very nice read. It keeps you interested, and in awe through out the whole book. I rated this book when i read it january with five stars, and as one of the best books written. But after i read Child 44 it changed my mind. Great read.
2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 28, 2012
Posted April 7, 2012
I got this book from a library but couldnt get through it ended up getting it on here and think it is worth about $4.50$ tax and all. There are about 12 typeoes in the entire story. I reccomend it!
2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 6, 2012
Posted April 6, 2012
Posted January 2, 2012
Posted March 8, 2011