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23 April 2024 FAKER by Gordon Korman, Scholastic Press, July 2024, 224p., ISBN: 978-1-338-82675-3


“Mr. McAvoy stays with the dog a little longer, peering and occasionally poking. The Great Dane bears this with restraint, like a movie star who has to put up with the paparazzi every now and then. At last, McAvoy takes out a check and hands it over to Dad, ‘My investment in full.’”


“Got a case of dynamite

I could hold out here all night

Yes I crossed my old man back in Oregon

Don't take me alive”

– Steely Dan (1976)


“Mr. McAvoy gets back in the chopper and  the three of us–me, Dad, and the Great Dane–watch it take off and disappear into the distance. 

Dad pats his pocket. ‘Another satisfied customer.’

‘Where to now?’ I ask. Back to Spealman?’

‘Soon. First we have to get rid of the mutt.’

I stare. ‘He isn’t ours?’

‘Are you kidding? What would we do with a dog?’

‘But the dog show! The winner’s circle at Westminster!’

My father smiles–a warm, friendly smile. It’s honest and open and makes people like him and trust him. That’s usually a mistake.

‘We don’t have to own a show dog. We just need marks like McAvoy to think we do. This dog’s a rental. We have to get him back to the agency before they charge us for an extra half day.’

I don’t know why I’m so surprised; I should know my father by now. ‘You rented Lord Gladstone,’ I say.

He nods. ‘The dog’s an actor. I know a guy who rents out trained animals for TV commercials. That’s where I got him. And his name isn’t Lord Gladstone. It’s Ernie.”


Mr. McAvoy’s son is Trey’s latest roomie and new friend. Trey, who narrates the tale, and his sister Arianna, periodically receive new identities and new fancy schools to attend. Trey buddies up to his rich classmates, and his dad proceeds to fleece the classmates’ parents with his latest scam. The ill-gotten proceeds go into the bank, and are promptly transferred into untraceable bitcoin. 


That’s how Dad has made his living for as far back as Trey and his sister can remember. (They were too young to recall their mother abandoning ship.) Eventually, often several times a year, it has been on to the next identity, school, good buddy, and fleecing. Trey is proudly in training to be a partner in the family business.


I’ve read a lot of Gordon Korman’s books and I am used to a blizzard of humor. But this one is for the books. Did you ever have one of those experiences as a kid in the lunchroom, where someone says something so funny that some kid has milk running out of their nose? By page fifteen of FAKER, I was recalling such memories and was quite glad that I wasn’t at that moment trying to sip my mug of oat milk hot chocolate. That’s how hilariously this tale starts out.


But, big surprise! FAKER turns out to be an incredibly profound read, unquestionably one of Korman’s best of the best. It’s the ultimate coming-of-age tale, the story of a tween who is severing himself and his personal beliefs from those of his father. Given the delicacy and secrecy of Dad’s swindling operations, this causes significant, lively, father-son conflict. 


When I was a kid, I dutifully read and watched the news, as teachers repeatedly instructed. And I read a lot. It all led to my eventually gaining information and information skills, and realizing that many things my father said and did didn’t jibe with what I knew or found to be true. That was a major step to my becoming my own independent person. 


What leads to a similar change in Trey’s belief system? Well, there’s a cool girl. Her father is Trey’s social studies teacher. Mr Novak is teaching a unit on ethics that compels Trey to think and dig deeper:


“Before, it never bothered me that my life was unsettled because there was always Dad. He knew what he was doing. He was solid as rock. He made the tough decisions and he was never wrong. He kept our world safe and under control, no matter how quickly situations changed, problems arose, and dangers swirled around us.

I don’t see that Dad anymore. He hasn’t changed at all, so the difference must be me.”


FAKER will cause plenty of readers to think twice about the bill of goods that their parents may be selling them. It’s an exceptionally entertaining thriller of a read, one that is quite capable of radically expanding readers’ minds and senses of self.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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