Weatherly, Lee. Child X. Yearling, 2003. ISBN 978-0440419044 224 pp. $
What if your whole identity changed in an instant? Aspiring actress and fantasy fan Jules can’t understand why her loving father has suddenly packed up and moved out and wants nothing to do with her. Sure, he and her mom have their differences, but she never dreamed they’d actually separate. Cast as fierce tomboyish Lyra in a local performance of Northern Lights (the British title of The Golden Compass), Jules hides this secret she is so proud of as her family falls apart. When she learns that her father has confronted her mother with the accusation that Jules is not his child, she is stunned to discover she is at the heart of a media frenzy, the unsuspecting subject of DNA tests, and the victim of the lawsuit her non-biological father is bringing against her mother. As a minor, Jules remains only Child X in the papers until a coy reporter gets her to spill the beans at an interview about the play Jules is involved with.
Both a mystery thriller and a wonderful tribute to author Philip Pullman, Child X is a dramatic and moving exploration of the dynamics of relationships of all kinds. The author takes a hard look at the power of the press (and their perseverance for a story). Jules is a likeable and sympathetic character that the reader roots for all the way through, and the ending is a satisfying one. People change in realistic ways, and Jules finds friends in unexpected places. The British tale is low on slang and very accessible to American readers. An excellent debut novel.