Cover of Who I'm Not by Ted Staunton. A teen boy covers his face with his hands, but his eyes are on the backs of his hands and it's really unsettling

About the Book

Title: Who I’m Not
Published: 2013

Cover Story: Giant Teen Face…Sweet Jesus!
Drinking Buddy:
Fiddle Game
Testosterone Level:
The Spanish Prisoner
Talky Talk:
There’s One Born Every Minute
Bonus Factors:
Librarian, Canada
Bromance Status:
The Guy Who Showed Up Right When All That Stuff Started Disappearing

Cover Story: Giant Teen Face…Sweet Jesus!

Yeah, another giant teen face cover…and holy crap! Geez, that’s unsettling.

The Deal:

So our fifteen-year-old protagonist has been living on the road with his mentor, Harley, for the past several years. Harley teaches the young man all about life, the universe, and confidence tricks: the Key Game, acting religious for money, vinyl siding scams, you name it. Life as a junior con-man isn’t the greatest, but where else does he have to go? He’s an orphan, and he’s sure as hell not going back to being a ward of the state.

But then, one day, a plan goes wrong and Harley is hit by a car. Our boy is on his own again. When the police want to know who he is, he secretly accesses a computer and takes on the ID of Danny, a Canadian boy who’s been missing for three years. He figures by the time Danny’s family gets through immigration, he’ll be long gone.

Except Danny’s sister shows up the very next day, overjoyed to have her brother back again. It doesn’t matter to her that he doesn’t really look like Danny: wrong eye color, missing a scar, etc. She whisks him back to Ontario to meet the rest of the family.

Of course, not everyone else is so accepting. Danny’s mother is cold and aloof around her long lost son. And Danny’s brother looks like he’s seen a ghost. And then there’s Griffin, the retired cop who worked Danny’s kidnapping. He doesn’t seem to believe Danny is back.

Does our hero have time to work a few Canadian scams, or should he steal a boat and row across Lake Ontario?

Drinking Buddy: Fiddle Game

Two pints of beer cheersing

“Danny” suddenly finds himself surrounded by loving grandparents, nephews, and social workers. Any lapses in behavior can be explained by trauma from his horrific experiences, and if he gets caught being bad, well, the boy’s been through a lot, okay? Danny’s just willing to take things easy, steal from his sister, and save up enough cash to slip back across the border and head for Reno. Hey, this’ll break the family’s heart, but what are you going do?

Of course, this is a kid who no one has ever loved. Can you blame him for being cynical and heartless? It’s not like he can stay here. It’s not like he’ll ever fit in.

Testosterone Level: The Spanish Prisoner

One of the first rip offs Danny pulls in Canada is to rip off the petty cash at the local library (this, of course, means he’ll burn in hell forever). Gillian, a teen volunteer, sees him but doesn’t rat him out. Danny sees this as a good omen: the only book he ever read as a child was The Great Gilly Hopkins. And when he tries to make things right, he realizes that real life Gilly has problems of her own. Maybe they could, you know, hang out. Go for a walk or something. Catch a movie.

It’s not like Danny’s meth addict ‘brother’ is going to come blundering in, screaming about the dead. Or that cop will insist he take a DNA test or something. Nope. Everything will be fine.

Talky Talk: There’s One Born Every Minute

So Danny’s sudden reappearance makes a lot of tongues wag, but aside from that old cop, no one says anything. Hey, we got our boy back, and that’s what’s important. Sure, he’s older, taller, leaner, darker, and American, but he says he’s our Danny, that’s all that matters.

I found this attitude a little chilling, especially because I could totally buy it. How many people in hopeless situations still refuse to give up hope? How many people would deliberately put on blinders in order to have that person back?

Okay, this whole plot was the same as an episode of The Simpsons, but still. Chilling.

Bonus Factor: Librarian

Danny sees the library as an easy place to run a con game or two. Until he meets Gillian. The quiet, angry, beautiful library volunteer. Like Danny, she’s been hurt. Like Danny, she has secrets. And it’s not like Danny’s going to be around a long time. Or could he?

Bonus Factor: Canada

The Flag of Canada

So Danny is in a backwater town in Ontario. And he’s never been to Canada. The money is weird, he’s never used the metric system, and he nearly blows his cover by forgetting that Thanksgiving is in October.

I wouldn’t call this multiculturalism, but it’s a change of pace, eh?

Bromance Status: The Guy Who Showed Up Right When All That Stuff Started Disappearing

Dude, it was nice to meet you, but…seriously, have you seen my watch?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received no dollars (Canadian or US) for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.