The Deception Artist
Roaring Forties Press (2015)
Reviewed by Kristine Hall for Reader Views (5/15)
It’s California in the 80s, and for eight-year-old Ivy, it seems like everyone – and everything – in her world is changing. Her big brother doesn’t want to play make-believe any more, she gains a stay-at-home dad in exchange for a working mom, and her forever-best friend has decided Ivy is babyish and has moved on from their friendship. As her world becomes more complicated, Ivy clings to her creativity and imagination for escape and sometimes finds the lines between what’s real and imagined are quite blurry. In “The Deception Artist,” author Fayette Fox takes adult readers into the mind of a child whose keen observations and honest interpretations make for an engaging and often humorous story.
One aspect of “The Deception Artist” that is different from typical fiction is that rather than following a distinct plot line, readers experience a chunk of time in the life of Ivy – and it works. Though the title of the book might imply otherwise, Ivy is not the only one practicing deception; truly, she’s surrounded by models of deception ranging from people who tell little white lies to whoppers. Insightful Ivy reminds readers that we are all playing pretend in one way or another, and she becomes fairly adept at evaluating when, why, and how she and others use lies.
Ivy’s impromptu alternative scenarios are clever, and humor is found not only in her playing make-believe, but also in young Ivy’s naiveté. She’s seen things on TV, after all, but not enough to be able to properly fill-in all the blanks, which allows for some real laugh-out-loud moments. At the same time, readers will find it painful to watch as Ivy’s friends and her brother outgrow Ivy’s imagination and force her to grow-up sooner than she wants.
The writing is very well done and author Fox manages to perfectly convey the tone of an eight-year-old without the book reading like a book for kids. Ivy’s observations are keen, and readers will pick-up on the nuances of what is happening between the adults. Fox’s characters are richly written, with each being memorable and unique, but where Fox really shines is in the use of figurative language. To begin, Ivy assesses people and then associates them with a bug sharing the same characteristics, so in her internal dialogue, she talks about Stink Bug Tommy, Caleb the Moth, Caterpillar Christa, etc. The use of numerous stylistic devices gives readers very specific snapshots of Ivy’s life. For example, when the bell rings signaling the end of recess, Ivy thinks, “Across the playground, kids stop playing and flow toward the classrooms like a dandelion puff in reverse.” Or when Ivy is fighting her orneriness, she says, “Staying good is like trying to stay full. It’s just a matter of time before you get hungry again.”
The only part of the book that left something to be desired was the side story of “The Artist.” Ivy’s escape into her own future is one of the most intriguing tangents of the book, and will definitely pique readers’ curiosities, but the unclear direction it takes towards the end will likely frustrate them as well. Despite this, I highly recommend “The Deception Artist” by Fayette Fox because the writing is beautiful and Ivy is hands-down one of the most memorable characters readers will experience in fiction.