Dan Chaon has been announced as one of the faculty at next year's Port Townsend Writers Conference, so I figured I'd try some and see whether I might want to sign up for his class. I enjoyed this one a lot, though probably more for the idea than the execution.It's about making new identities—literally. We rotate through three story lines: Miles looking for his long-lost twin Hayden, Lucy running away with her high-school history teacher, Ryan dropping out of his middle-class life with his adoptive family to do something apparently risky with his estranged biological dad. (Ryan's is the only story that starts mid-action, a scene of terror that the linear telling doesn't reach until about two thirds of the way through the book.) They're all running away from something, towards something, probably both, and the new thing involves not just a new idea of self and role in the world, but, as it turns out, a new name. Or several.What I really like is the way Chaon sneaks up on his thriller-like material from the inside: what it's like to assume a new identity, why someone might want to, what they might regret. Even though we get clear signs throughout that there's some pretty nasty criminal identity theft going on and that it's about to catch up with one or more of the plotlines, our three protagonists are still motivated by a romantic quest for self-(re)invention. You're rooting for these kids (they're all presented as young, in outlook if not age) as they try to figure out their place in the world.The writing itself isn't that spectacular. It's a close third person, inside Miles' and Lucy's and Ryan's heads in their three sections, and it's that inside view that makes the story go, not the external advancement of plot. I think the narration needed to stay third-person rather than first, because the whole idea of the book is the difficulty of settling inside a single identity—but that makes for clumsy transitions from outside to inside. The one exception is certain of Lucy's thoughts, which are introduced with a bare "She thought:" tag (and sometimes the line afterwards is a single word or phrase, sometimes even blank). To me, that tag is such a bald narrative intrusion that it brings me out to the pomo questions of who's telling this story and why and how, and I like that; it's another level of identity. That only happens in Lucy's sections, and it's a hint that Chaon may have wanted to give each section a more distinct narrative tone (and Lucy's would be something sort of minimalist and absurd, maybe Lorrie Moore or Amy Hempel), but the three styles aren't really that distinct in the end. There are some good passages, and some great situations and settings and scenes, but Chaon's use of language doesn't particularly stand out.Still, it's a good read, and a fast one, and probably a hell of a lot more interesting than most genre thrillers you'll encounter about identity theft.