Flashback Fridays: Two sides of a coin . . .

You’re a young teen who feels like someone is watching you–and that people keep seeing you doing things you’d never do.  Are you going crazy, or is there someone else, some stranger out there?

Do you remember:

Stranger With My Face by Lois Duncan (Dell Publishing, c1981)

Laurie is a young teen who lately feels like she’s being watched.  Sometimes she thinks she sees something or here’s something . . . but no one is there.  Some of her friends claim they’ve seen her places she’d never go–that she’s responsible for things that have happened she has no memory of.  But Laurie isn’t going crazy at all.  Instead, Laurie is being mystically contacted by her twin sister.  As babies, the two girls were given up for adoption, and Laurie never knew she had a sister.

Now her sister has reached out to contact her, and teach her how to astral-project her own self.  But Laurie and her sister really are two sides of a coin, and where Laurie is good and kind, her sister is malevolent and manipulative.  Her twin isn’t after family bonding; she wants what Laurie has, and she’s going to get it, even if it costs Laurie everything.

This was part of preteen book club at my library when I was growing up.  While I doubt the story has aged very well over the years, at the time it was thrilling and like nothing I’d read before.  Supernatural thrillers weren’t that common, and Lois Duncan had sort of cornered the market on them.  As much as the characters in these stories are teens, the books are sort of light fare for older YA, and so these books seem to fall into the middling spectrum of tweenish books.

Up until I read this, I’d been familiar with science fiction, epic and urban fantasy, and even ghost story style horror.  But this kind of teen psychic power fantasy with strongly drawn tides of good and evil was new to me.  It was heady stuff.  I’d already been reading a ton of books related to psychic powers and parapsychology, and this gave me some of the same elements in a fiction environment.  With major female protagonists.

Apparently these books are still being reprinted, this cover is from the 2011 reprint.

Lois Duncan is an author most famous for her YA thrillers, some of which have been made into pretty popular movies (I Know What You Did Last Summer(1997).  Apparently Stranger with My Face (2009) has also been made into a TV movie–it slipped past my notice at the time.   I’ve never read her criminal thrillers, but stuck to her supernatural stories.    Until the discovery of authors like L. J. Smith in the 1990s, I really didn’t find anything similar.

Quite a few of Duncan’s titles inspire fond memories in me, but this was the very first I came across.  It still evokes that sense of excitement and discovery and that very real chill of encountering something darkly evil that only you can defeat.

Fun stuff!  Any other Lois Duncan fans out there?



About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on February 8, 2015, in Flashback Fridays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I was a huge Lois Duncan fan when I was a teenager. I still re-read them occasionally. My favorite is Down A Dark Hall.

  2. I was scrolling down my feedly trying to sort out (new) book reviews for collection development notes and hastily skipping anything “unimportant,” including almost this one, but then I caught the first sentence and said “Wait, I know THAT book!” So I have to chime in as another huge Duncan fan back in middle school. And this one was one of my favorites. When I was in library school I did a little report on Duncan and was intrigued to discover that her “Gallow’s Hill” had come out in the years since my paperback teen horror phase, so I found that and was so pleased– though hardly gorgeous Literature-with-a-capital-L, it reminded me why I loved her books so much back then– seriously fun thrills!

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