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Face-Off

by Michael Betcherman

As starting goalie for Team British Columbia in an international hockey tournament, the last thing 17-year-old Alex Petrovic expects is to come face-to-face with his long-lost identical twin. But that’s exactly what happens when he shakes hands with the opposing goalie at the end of the game. The infant son Alex’s mom thought had died with her husband during a civil war in their fictional Eastern European country has been alive all along. It’s a huge shock, especially for Alex and his brother Stefan, neither of whom knew the other existed.

The second YA novel by screenwriter Michael Betcherman is perfectly aimed at teen boys with its blend of sports, mystery, and high-school drama. While both boys try to impress college scouts with their moves on the ice, Alex becomes obsessed with finding two war criminals from his home country who have escaped from jail. The men are responsible for the fire that killed his father, and Alex is determined to use his family’s ties to the area, as well as his uncle’s travel agency business, to bring them to justice.

While the storyline is entertaining, it’s also far-fetched. In a novel with several realistic and well-written subplots (such as Alex and Stefan’s hockey ambitions and sibling rivalry, as well as Alex’s friendship with potential love-interest Lara), it’s hard to suspend disbelief for the mystery. Younger teens might take this in stride, but more seasoned readers will likely find it unbelievable that three teenagers would have any chance of finding the missing convicts on the other side of the world. It’s a fun diversion, but setting this plotline against the more realistic ones results in a clash in styles that ultimately doesn’t work.