Cliché's Are Not A Stranger
Stranger With My Face is about seventeen-year-old Laurie who learns she has an evil twin sister bent on taking her place in life. The book is laden with clichés that make the book predictable but Lois Duncan uses those same clichés to hold the readers attention.
The first of the major clichés encountered in the story is that of a good and evil twin. The concept is first introduced when Laurie learns she was adopted and has a twin Laurie asks her parents why they adopted her instead of her sister Lia.
“You weren't alike,” Mother said. “You looked just alike—both of you so beautiful with big, solemn eyes and all that thick, dark hair. The people at the agency wanted us to take you both, and despite what Dad says, I really think we might have done it. It seemed wrong to separate twin sisters. I picked you up and cuddled you, and I knew I never wanted to let you go. It was as though you were meant to be ours. Then I handed you to Dad to hold and picked up the other baby, and—and--”
“And what?” I prodded.
“I wanted to put her down.”
“Why did you want to do that?” I asked in bewilderment.
“That's what Dad kept asking me. I couldn't explain it to him then, and I can't to you now. It was instinctive. She felt alien in my arms. I knew I would not be able to love her.” (73)
However, the way Lia acts around Laurie makes readers wonder if her mother's feeling was incorrect. After all, Lia hasn't done anything evil. Laurie's friends think they see her when they really see Lia, but that's not necessarily because Lia is being malicious. One could argue she's exploring her sister's world when she's seen. The only other person to claim Lia was evil was Laurie's friend, Helen. And her basis for the claim was how Lia was looking at her when she woke up in Laurie's pitch black room. And Laurie seems to enjoy her time with Lia.
Perhaps I could say that it was a bit like falling in love. When I first started going with Gordon, he was all I could think about. I got up in the morning with his name on my lips--“Gordon--Gordon--today I will see Gordon!”--and I fell asleep at night with his face superimposed upon the inside of my closed lids. Now it was Lia's face—my face—that filled my consciousness. What I was experiencing was, in a way, like falling in love with myself. (102-03)
During that time, Laurie learns a lot about her biological mother and the hard-knock life her sister grew up in.
Eventually, Laurie finds out her mother was right about Lia after she and her friend Jeff get trapped in a cave because of Lia. She and Jeff discuss the incident and Lia once they're rescued. During the conversation, Jeff interprets something Lia said and Laurie quotes.
“I don't understand why she hates me,” I told him helplessly. “'We're are the two sides of the a coin—'”
“The dark and the light side.”
“Coins aren't that way,” I said.
“But people are.” (177-78)
Laurie had interpreted the quote “We're are the two sides of a coin” as another way of saying they were twins. The new interpretation only reinforces what Laurie, Jeff and the readers now know: Lia is evil. As the story progresses, readers learn that Lia is a murderer several times over, not someone who is only beginning her evil reign.
At one point Meg, Laurie's eight-year-old adopted sister, asks Laurie about Lia's motivation in teaching Laurie how to astral project.
“What I don't understand, though, is why she wanted so much for you to learn how to go away.”
“Why, because—because--” To my surprise, I found that I was unable to come up with an answer. I had accepted Lia's insistence without questioning it. (217)
Immediately readers see Laurie try to figure out Lia's the motivation. And readers get a chance to hope that Laurie will figure it out, as many readers already had and prevent Lia from fulfilling her plan. Laurie doesn't figure it out until after Lia has taken over her body.
Lois Duncan has clichés spilling over in Stranger With My Face. These clichés make the book predictable but she tells the story in a way that allows readers to believe she'll subvert them and create a completely different story. Although she doesn't, she manages to keep readers attention to the end.
Duncan, Lois. Stranger with My Face. New York: Dell Pub., 1982. Print.