Fake ID deals with a teenage boy in witness protection with his family. They're on their third change of identity, because Dad is trouble and can't keep with the program. Nick...Steven...Tony...finds that his family has been dumped in a town that's nothing but trouble.
It's The YA Characters, Stupid
Fake ID isn't just a good thriller. It's good YA. I've read YA thrillers before that were essentially adult books with fast cars and dangerous women. The main character is said to be YA, but doesn't act YA or appear to be YA. S/he isn't in YA situations. These are simply adult books that have been retrofitted for YA.
This book isn't like that. Nick is very much part of a YA world...dealing with high school, new people, bullies, a new girl, a possible murder. Well, the possible murder isn't typical of a YA world, of course, but the victim is a YA. Nick has father issues, which is common with YA novels. In fact, there are two guys with father issues here. On top of that, you could say that this book deals with identity, a classic YA theme, since what is witness protection about but identity?
Fake ID involves a few of those classic mystery elements, red herrings. There are a number of false leads, sending readers after different possible culprits. But it's not giving anything away to say that even on this score this book is about the YA characters, stupid. The fundamental most basic rule of YA, as far as I'm concerned.
Thrillers And Diversity
In addition to being a good read for anyone, Fake ID is an opportunity for young readers of color to see a main character of color in a thriller written by an author of color.
At about the same time I was reading Fake ID, I read Changing the Face of Crime Fiction: 6 Writers of Color on Writing Mysteries, Crime Novels and Thrillers in Writer's Digest. The article is a round table discussion that begins with the question "Is it really true that the crime/mystery/thriller genre is overwhelmingly white...?" The writers involved in the discussion believe the answer is yes. One of them, Gar Anthony Haywood, says, "I think support for writers of color starts with promoting crime fiction to young readers of color at an early age. Minority readers of crime fiction tend to discover us almost by accident, after years of reading white authors exclusively, and this is a missed opportunity."
Young white readers are exposed to plenty of mysteries, crime novels, and thrillers with white protagonists and therefore expect to find more of the same for their adult reading. Fake ID gives young nonwhite readers a chance for the same experience.