Who I'm Not

Who I'm Not

by Ted Staunton

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Danny has survived everything life has thrown at him: being abandoned at birth, multiple abusive foster homes, life as a con man in training. But when his latest "protector" dies suddenly, Danny has to think fast or he'll be back in foster care again. He decides to assume the identity of a boy who disappeared three years before. If nothing else, he figures it will buy


Danny has survived everything life has thrown at him: being abandoned at birth, multiple abusive foster homes, life as a con man in training. But when his latest "protector" dies suddenly, Danny has to think fast or he'll be back in foster care again. He decides to assume the identity of a boy who disappeared three years before. If nothing else, he figures it will buy him a little time. Much to his astonishment, his new "family" accepts him as their own—despite the fact that he looks nothing like their missing relative. But one old cop has his suspicions about Danny—and he's not about to declare the case closed. Inspired by a true story, Who I'm Not is a powerful portrait of a boy whose identity is as fluid as a river and as changeable as a chameleon's skin.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Loosely based on a true story, Staunton’s novel follows a nameless teenager whose tumultuous life has left him with no concept of his own identity. After the petty criminal he’s been running with is killed, the boy tries to avoid being thrown back into the foster care system by scanning a list of missing teenage boys and claiming to be one of them, Danny Dellomondo. Danny’s family is so overjoyed to learn that he is alive that they overlook certain inconsistencies—Danny’s eye color has changed, for example (he claims that when he was kidnapped, his captors “injected my eyes with something”). Staunton (Jump Cut) manages a potentially farfetched premise with authority and persuasive detail: the fake Danny easily assumes the role of the missing teen by looking at family photos, relying on his skills of manipulation, and drawing from actual past trauma to deflect uncomfortable questions. While the ending is dramatic, the psychological tension at the root of “Danny’s” masquerade and the relationships he forms with those who are so willingly deceived are gripping throughout. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
The Bulletin of The Center for Children’s Books
"[Staunton] brings an engaging solidity to the currently popular impostor plot, and fake Danny is an intriguing character—a genuinely talented, compulsive grifter who’s great at understanding everybody’s behavior but his own, and who’s more of a lost soul than he realizes. His relationship with Gillian is realistically low key even as it’s pivotal...[and] the underlying family drama is sadly plausible...A speedy, satisfying suspense tale."
Mabel's Fables blog
"A thoroughly compelling read...Knowing that it's based on real events, makes it all the more fascinating."
Back to Books blog
"I found the writing to be brilliant, it kept me glued to the pages, the story was impressive and there was no writing down to the audience...This is quite readable by teens and adults alike...Good realistic teen fiction suspense!"
Quill & Quire
[Starred review] "Takes off like a rocket and continue its upward trajectory right to the very last page...Danny himself is fantastically constructed, his typical teen bravado complicated by trauma and deep-seated fears...Given its cinematic quality, dead-on dialogue, and rollicking pace,Who I'm Not is a perfect choice for reluctant readers. This book is a knockout."
National Reading Campaign blog
"Staunton gives us a tightly woven, suspenseful story that will grip readers and keep them turning the pages. At the same time, the ineffable sadness of the narrator’s situation adds a poignant undertone and depth to the story. Readers may figure out the real Danny’s fate before the narrator does, but there are many more developments before the last page."
"A fast-paced and highly entertaining story."
Sense and Sensibility and Stories blog
"The concept was intriguing, the characterization was rich with detail, and the pacing was swift. I found myself pulled into Danny's story with little effort on my own part...Definitely a page turner, and the exploration of the foster care system is actually quite interesting."
Resource Links
"A fascinating tale told in first-person by a boy who assumes the identity of a ‘vanished teen.’ Students who enjoy mystery and espionage as well as cunning and daring adventures will enjoy this page-turning read."
CM Magazine
"[Danny's] description of The Bad Time, or his time in a series of abusive foster homes, is heart-wrenching...Although the story is written with Danny’s voice, the other characters are well-drawn, and their motivations are obvious. This book makes the reader question everything...There are questions that are not answered in the text but are worth puzzling about afterwards...Recommended."
VOYA - Debbie Wenk
"Danny" is not his real name—he has had so many names that he does not remember his real one, or his real birth date. Bounced between multiple miserable foster homes, he lands with Harley, a con man who treats him better than any of his foster parents. Harley's accidental death after three years of cons and scams together leaves Danny alone and penniless. He takes on the identity of Danny, a Canadian teen who has been missing for three years. Danny's family readily accepts him as Danny, although one retired cop remains skeptical, and Danny must be extra cautious until he can amass enough money and figure out a plan to flee. To complicate things, he meets Gillian, a teen with secrets of her own, and they begin to bond. This quick read pulls the reader in almost immediately. The main character's backstory is minimal, yet the reader cannot help but be intrigued by his attempt to be Danny. The story moves at a rapid pace, and most of the characters have no real depth. Danny and his struggles are the focus as he moves between the cold, heartless con he has become and the damaged, lonely boy that he is. The ending is abrupt, with no resolution to his identity, but this serves to enhance the mystery surrounding the boy and somehow makes the reader care even more about him. This should be an easy booktalk and will appeal to reluctant readers. Reviewer: Debbie Wenk
School Library Journal
Gr 6–8—Danny has been bounced from foster home to foster home ever since he was born. He cannot remember his name, he's been given too many, and he cannot remember his birthday; it has rarely been celebrated. He felt finally comfortable, though, when con man Harley took custody of him. When Harley dies suddenly, Danny decides he will do anything to avoid being sent to yet another foster home and assumes the identity of a missing teen from Canada. Much to Danny's surprise, the family quickly accepts him as their own, but a retired cop has his suspicions. Thus far, Danny has been able to handle anything life has thrown at him. Is he finally in over his head? This novel was inspired by a true story, featured in the New Yorker, of a Frenchman who impersonated a missing Texas teen. Reluctant readers will be receptive to this gripping tale about identity and resilience, written in clear language.—Tiffany Davis, Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh, NY
Kirkus Reviews
A teen con artist confronts the haunted past of a torn Canadian family. Staunton's street-wise, smooth-talking 15-year-old protagonist first enters the scene as Frank, the so-called son of a credit-card thief named Harley. When a simple heist goes bad and leaves Harley dead on the pavement, Frank, already a well-taught liar, has to figure out his next move. At the local Youth Services office, he stumbles across the profile of Danny Dellomondo, a missing Canadian teen, and adopts his identity. Lies, betrayal, murder and even romance hit him head on when he arrives in the small town of Port Hope, Ontario, and Danny finds himself caught in the middle of a mystery more layered than he ever could have imagined. Enter Gillian, whom he meets in alternative school after pounding one of the local bullies in the hall, and sparks fly. Staunton's latest page-turner moves fast. Readers aren't sure whether or not they can trust the main character, and that makes the journey all the more exhilarating as Danny conjures up more lies, stories and thievery to cover up his tracks. The provocative, well-drawn characters run the gamut, from Danny's kindly caregiver, Shan, to his violent, drug-addicted brother. Staunton stealthily inserts clues as to the whereabouts of the real Danny, but his keen plotting skills will keep readers guessing until the very end. Breathless, fast-paced fun. (Thriller. 14 & up)

Product Details

Orca Book Publishers
Publication date:
Young Adult Novels
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
HL600L (what's this?)
File size:
631 KB
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Ted Staunton divides his time between writing and a busy schedule as a speaker, workshop leader, storyteller and musical performer for children and adults. His previous books include the well-loved Green Applestreet Gang series, the Cyril and Maggie series, the Morgan series, Puddleman, Simon's Surprise, several titles in the Dreadful Truth series including the Canadian Children's Centre Our Choice selection The Dreadful Truth: Confederation, and the acclaimed Hope Springs a Leak, which was shortlisted for both a Silver Birch Award and a Hackmatack Award. Ted lives in Port Hope, Ontario.

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