Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction, Young Adult

Fake by Ele Fountain

Fake is another triumph for Ele Fountain. Gripping from the first page to the last, I couldn’t put it down. Ele’s talent for exploring global issues on such a personal level pulls readers into the story to experience challenges right along with her characters.

14-year-old Jessica is going to school for the first time. Living through a world-wide antibiotics crisis, children are not permitted to mix until their immune systems have fully developed. Spending time with other children is just too risky when a simple infection could turn deadly. All schooling is on-line and technology is key. When Jess arrives at her boarding school, she isn’t sure what to expect. She’s been fortunate to have her sister, Chloe, and best friend, Finn, to grow up with but some of her classmates have never spent time with other children “in real life” before. The move from on-line learning to face-to-face is a huge adjustment. Only knowing “friends” through screens makes the nuances of forming relationships incredibly challenging and what might seem like ordinary social situations is something that needs to be learned.

There is so much power in this premise while our own world is trying to pull itself out of a global pandemic full of lockdowns, on-line schooling and life through screens. With personal experience of this sort of existence, readers will be fascinated by how these children are coping. The thrill of actually playing sports or music with other children is coupled with the fear of being near anyone who might be ill – things we once took for granted are now celebrated and a new set of worries casts a shadow over daily life. Readers will also be challenged to reflect on the impact of technology in our own lives. What would happen if it suddenly shut off? Can we ever go back to living without it? How much control does it hold over us?

As Jess gets to know the other children in her year, she struggles to fit in. She’s different. Her family doesn’t have as much money as other families and none of the latest possessions. Instead, her parents have instilled in her an appreciation for nature, time away from screens and real books. I love the description of “bibliosmia” – the smell of books – and clues to which special books Jess has taken to school with her. She also worries about her sister – Chloe is ill and her medication is becoming more expensive. Life is becoming more of a struggle for her family and she isn’t there to help.

Jess has a secret – not even Finn knows what talent she has discovered. As she explores what she’s really capable of, Jess realises she has the power to change her family’s life. But she must step carefully – one wrong move and things will never be the same again.

Fake is perfect for Upper Key Stage Two and Key Stage Three – children who are old enough to understand the significance of the time they are living through and make connections with the story. There is so much to explore: disease, medication, healthcare, finances, technology, isolation, friendships, and secrets.

Thank you to Pushkin Children’s for my copy of this incredible book!

Read my review of Melt by Ele Fountain:

Click on the covers below to find out more or purchase on-line from Amazon or

Books by Kate Heap:

Contemporary Children’s Literature: Years 3/4

Nonfiction: Years 5/6

Nonfiction: Years 3/4

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