Double Identity (novel)
|Author||Margaret Peterson Haddix|
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover, Paperback)|
|Pages||218 (Paperback and hard cover)|
Bethany Cole is living a normal life until her parents, Walter and Hillary, load her into their car at midnight and drive her hours away from their home. They reach Sanderfield, Illinois, where Bethany is introduced to her aunt Myrlie Wilkers, whom Bethany had never met before. When Bethany's dad talks to Myrlie, Bethany overhears her father say "She doesn't know anything about Elizabeth." Bethany realizes that her parents are abandoning her without an explanation, but she begrudgingly settles in.
Myrlie shows Bethany the way to a room for her grandchildren that has never been used. Myrlie then takes Bethany back downstairs, where she correctly guesses all of Bethany's favorite foods. The next day, Bethany tells Myrlie that she is a swimmer, so Myrlie takes her to the YMCA to swim. While they are there, one of Myrlie's friends notices Bethany and mentions that she thought Bethany was Elizabeth. This is enough to spark Bethany's interest in Elizabeth. Bethany really wants to know about Elizabeth.
Bethany overhears Myrlie on the phone asking for permission from Walter to allow her to tell Bethany who Elizabeth was. Myrlie says that she promised Walter that she would not tell, although she very much wants to. When Bethany asks who Elizabeth was, he asks her to put Myrlie on the phone. When Myrlie finishes talking with Walter, she tells Bethany that Elizabeth was her sister who died in a tragic car crash. Hillary was driving and Myrlie's husband died in the car crash also. Joss, though, didn't die.
Joss, Myrlie's daughter and formerly Elizabeth's best friend, comes to talk to Bethany. At first, Joss mistakes Bethany for Elizabeth, noting their exact resemblance. After a long talk about Elizabeth, they watch old videos of Joss and Elizabeth as children. When Bethany sees Elizabeth, she realizes that they are identical, except for a small scar just above Elizabeth's lips. When the three of them play cards, Joss accidentally calls Bethany "Elizabeth".
The next day, Myrlie receives a package with four forged birth certificates from different states and ten thousand dollars cash. A note accompanying it explains Walter and Hillary's reasons for leaving Bethany with Myrlie. Soon after, Hillary calls, asking for Elizabeth. Bethany grabs the phone and tries to reassure her mother while Joss attempts to trace the call. Hillary tells Bethany, thinking she is the dead Elizabeth, that if they save some of her cells, they can make a clone of her, so Bethany realizes that she is Elizabeth's clone, which is why she likes all the same things and looks exactly like her. Her parents even raised her in a similar environment with the same toys to try to replicate their first daughter.
Over the next few days, Bethany encounters a mysterious man. First, he offers to give her a ride home after she trips and falls, injuring herself. Bethany is panicked that he knows her name, but Joss comes to find her. Later, the same mysterious man, this time identified as "Dalton," comes to Myrlie's house on Halloween and asks for Walter. A strange car also drives by the house several times.
A few days later, Joss, Myrlie, and Bethany later go to the Harvest Festival, where they see Bethany's parents. Wondering at their presence, they soon become aware that Dalton is at the fair too. It is revealed that Dalton Van Dyne gave Bethany's father money to create a clone of himself because he felt a clone would be the only person who would love him. Instead of creating that clone, Walter created a clone of Elizabeth, believing that while Van Dyne would have another chance, Elizabeth wouldn't have one. When Bethany realizes this, she tells him, but the entire town hears it as well.
In the epilogue, Bethany is thirteen and living in Sanderfield. She explains to the reader that her parents made four embryos cloned from Elizabeth and implanted three of them into three surrogates and one into Hillary. The babies of the surrogates died very soon after birth, but Bethany, her mother's baby, survived. The book ends with the family planting a ginkgo in honor of Bethany next to the trees that were planted for Elizabeth and Joss.
The protagonist of the novel, Bethany is 12 years old at the beginning of the novel. She has hazel eyes and blonde hair. She is Elizabeth's younger sister and clone, and the daughter of Walter and Hillary. She is an amazing swimmer, and wears glasses. Last name changed from Krull to Cole, to help conceal her identity from the antagonist, Dalton Van Dyne.
When her parents leave her at Myrlie's home, she learns about Elizabeth's existence and eventually deduces that she is her clone. At the end of the novel she is 13 and lives happily with her family.
Myrlie is Bethany's maternal aunt and Joss's mother. Bethany is left at her house at the beginning of the novel Bethany's father. Her husband was also killed in the car accident that killed Elizabeth Krull.
Joss is Bethany's cousin and Myrlie's daughter. She was Elizabeth's best friend and cousin, did gymnastics with her, and is also a female minister.
Walter is Bethany's father. Throughout the novel, he goes by "Walter Cole." He was paid to create a clone of Dalton Van Dyne, but when Van Dyne was jailed, he used the money to clone his deceased daughter, Elizabeth.
Hillary is Bethany's mother. Throughout the novel, she goes by "Hillary Cole." She seems unbalanced and calls Bethany at random intervals while Bethany is at Myrlie's. During these calls, she has a habit of thinking that Bethany is Elizabeth. Hillary feels guilty for the deaths of Elizabeth and Myrlie's husband because she was driving the car when it crashed.
Elizabeth Krull was the daughter of Walter and Hillary. She is Bethany's older sister and died in a car accident on her 13th birthday along with her Aunt Myrlie's husband. She was an amazing gymnast, and wanted to go to the Olympics with her cousin Joss. She also hated swimming. When her parents signed her up for swimming lessons she refused to even dip a toe in the water because when she was 3 she almost drowned when Hillary and Walter took her to a public pool. She is different from Bethany because she is more confident and louder. She looks exactly like Bethany except for a small scar under her left eye.