Cam Redden is something of a chameleon. It’s his job as a part-time employee of the Almost Family Surrogate Agency to blend into other people’s lives, whether he’s hired to play a bereaved-but-stoic grandson or a client’s kid brother. Owned by Cam’s father, Will, a washed-up former sitcom star, the rent-a-relative enterprise pairs actors with customers in need of a family member at birthdays, funerals, and other occasions.
Then Cam meets Albertina Legge, a cantankerous senior citizen always trying to sniff out a scam, and Raylene, a beautiful, silver-haired teenager weighed down by tragedy in her family’s past. Together Cam, Albertina, and Raylene form an unlikely crime-fighting trio who embark on an adventure that is part comedy, part mystery, and part coming-of-age story.
Short for Chameleon is a fast-paced read accelerated by Cam’s light, humorous narration and brief chapters that almost always end in a cliffhanger. Yet beneath the book’s upbeat tone and quirky characters there is an undercurrent of sadness. As layers are peeled from each main character, unexpected themes such as suicide and abandonment emerge.
Despite a few too many throwaway characters (like Suraj, Cam’s wisecracking best friend), Short for Chameleon is a near perfect book. It bursts with a unique voice and a delightfully surprising plot. This is a novel with incredible heart, telling the story of a boy who can “fade into the background with the rest of them,” but who slowly begins to create his own identity.