YA Book Review: Stranger with My Face

Although I though I had read Lois Duncan’s Stranger with My Face when I was a teenager, reading it last week made me think otherwise.  If I had read it, I didn’t remember a single things about the storyline.  As a huge lover of mysteries – though not necessarily of the thriller genre – I was looking forward to reading a book geared more toward my student’s age group than my own.

Laurie lives on a small island off the coast of New England in a beautiful house and things seem to be going perfectly for her the summer before her senior year.  She has a great boyfriend who has introduced her to a new, more popular, social scene and she enjoys her fun, albeit somewhat different family.  And although she isn’t always confident about her looks and isn’t easily able to identify herself with her parents, she is happy.  This all changes when her boyfriend swears he sees her out and about after she tells him she is sick and cannot be his date at a party.  Laurie knows she was home but cannot make her boyfriend believe her.  As she returns to school that fall, she realizes that her boyfriend isn’t lying –  a stranger exists with her face.  What unfolds is a sometimes riveting tale of Laurie’s attempt to figure out just who this person is and includes some interesting information on astral projection.

As I read this book and thought about whether or not my students would latch on to it, I found both positives and negatives. I  think my students, especially the Pretty Little Liars lovers would enjoy the thrilling aspects of the book – it is quite suspenseful and Duncan does a great job leaving cliff hangers at the end of nearly every chapter.  You do want to keep reading.  I just don’t know if the book has lasting power. Written in the early 80s, there are many things that do not transfer into our modern age.  Whether that be allowing high school students to drink or inappropriate comments about a character with a disfigured face, there is a lack of universality to this book in terms of setting that I think some students would have some difficulty with.  In addition, Duncan jumps in time a great deal.  Major things happen but are not really described well; they are simply mentioned as new things unfold and, as the reader, you are left wanting more.

I am going to present this book to my students as some might find interest in it, but I plan on sharing my thoughts about it with them and asking for their input.  I wonder what they will think about Duncan’s writing and the ideas of astral projection.  Does this over 30 year old book actually have lasting power or is it stuck in the 80s?

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