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Literature / Double Identity

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Double Identity is a 2005 young adult novel by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The book explores issues of cloning and its ethics, as well as what individuality and humanity really mean and the significance of grief through a suspenseful plot.

Twelve-year-old Bethany Cole has parents who have recently become more overprotective of her than usual. Her mother keeps on crying and denying that anything's wrong when Bethany questions her and her father follows her around their neighborhood.


One day, her father, Walter, drives her mother, Hillary, and her away from their Pennsylvania hometown and leaves her at her long-lost aunt's house in the town of Sanderfield, Illinois, without an explanation or a phone number. Overheard conversations about someone named Elizabeth and the discovery that her family's listing has been removed from the phone directory, as well as Hillary's mistaking her for Elizabeth and several of the townspeople's reactions to her land her aunt's refusal to tell her anything lead Bethany to discover something shocking about her identity.


This novel contains examples of the following tropes. Spoilers Ahead!

  • Alternate History: Human cloning was possible by the late 1990s.
  • Apron Matron: Bethany's Aunt Myrlie, who's older and works as a kindergarten teacher and who Bethany acknowledges is the only person who cares about her since her parents left her. Myrlie is also furious that Bethany's parents have not told her about Elizabeth.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Walter sends one (well a package), with fake birth certificates for Bethany, to Myrlie.
  • Cloning Blues: Bethany is a clone of her parents' daughter Elizabeth. Since she and Elizabeth have similar personalities, Bethany starts trying to find differences between her and Elizabeth in order to attempt to prove that she isn't a clone.
  • Death by Origin Story: The Posthumous Character of Elizabeth, who was a talented gymnast. Also Bethany's uncle, Tom Wilker.
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  • Doting Parents: Walter and Hillary to Bethany.
    Even when I was little, they never hired a babysitter for me.
  • Freudian Excuse: Dalton Van Dyne, the villain who wanted to clone himself and paid Bethany's father to do it is hinted to have had Abusive Parents. He wanted a clone because he felt that was the only way he would ever be loved.
  • Happier Home Movie: The videos of the athlete profiles for Joss. These are also important for Bethany as they show her how her parents used to be.
  • Lampshade Hanging: From Bethany and her cousin Joss about her Meaningful Name.
  • Luke I Am Your Aunt What kicks off the whole plot.
  • Meaningful Name: Bethany is a town in the New Testament, where Lazarus was raised from the dead. The protagonist is a clone of her dead sister.
  • Meaningful Rename: Walter changed his surname to Cole to protect himself and his family from Van Dyne, who he was afraid would hunt him down.
  • Overprotective Parents: Walter and Hillary, due to Elizabeth's death in a car accident on the way home from a birthday trip to Sinclair Mountain, an amusement park.
  • Parental Abandonment
  • Posthumous Character: Elizabeth.
  • Survivor Guilt: Joss became a minister to find answers to her questions about her cousin's and father's deaths. Implied to be why Hillary is so protective of Bethany.
  • Thoroughly Mistaken Identity: Hillary and Joss call Bethany "Elizabeth" several times.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Possibly from an Alternate History. 2006 (one year from the book's first publication) is "years ago." Myrlie drives "one of the older gas-electric cars" and human cloning without serious defects is possible.


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