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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I try not to look at the girl in the mirror as I pass by"
Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical twins, 16 years old, mirror images; physically alike but in personality very different. They are half of a deeply dysfunctional family. Their mother, a politician running for office in Washington, has left them in every way possible; their father, a judge, numbs himself with whiskey and pills before coming to one daughter's bed while the...
Published on October 19, 2008 by Linda Bulger

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the best
This book was not only disturbing, but kind of boring. There weren't any "on your edge of the seat" moments. There was a twist in the book, but I saw it coming.
Published 22 months ago by Jessica Thomas


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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I try not to look at the girl in the mirror as I pass by", October 19, 2008
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This review is from: Identical (Hardcover)
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Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical twins, 16 years old, mirror images; physically alike but in personality very different. They are half of a deeply dysfunctional family. Their mother, a politician running for office in Washington, has left them in every way possible; their father, a judge, numbs himself with whiskey and pills before coming to one daughter's bed while the other alternately hates him for it and longs for his love.

Kaeleigh, soft-centered, binges and cuts herself, can't feel worthy of the young man who loves her; and finds her only common ground with an 80-year-old woman who lives in the residential center where she works part-time. Raeanne, on the other hand, is tough and cold, has sex with dangerous boys for drugs, steals booze and oxy from her father, and purges to free herself from the venom of her past.

The unbearable events that poison the twins' present are rooted in the past, but just how far back? The car accident when they were eight years old, or further back in their parents' youth? The foreshadowing is woven through the present story, and even if the reader glimpses the truth before full disclosure, the book's worth rests not in its revelation but in the escalation of pain resulting from the family history.

I had not read any earlier books by author Ellen Hopkins so I was unprepared for the highly original design concept of this book. Done entirely in free verse in the alternating voices of the sisters, the words on the page are arranged in patterns that reflect the tone of the story. Letters, hearts, teardrops; tight intense verses; jagged word explosions on the page; and most interesting of all, where the story transitions from one twin to the other, the words on the facing pages mesh together like the teeth of a zipper. I found it literally impossible to put this book down and read it in one long session. The originality of design hooked me, but the intensity of the story delivered a punch that will stay with me for a long time.

In publisher-speak, the category "Young Adult" refers to readers approximately 12 to 18 years old. Identical would be better suited for the more mature reader toward the upper end of that range, having explicit scenes involving sex, alcohol and drug abuse, purging and cutting. Any adult wanting to understand the pressures and realities of teen life will find this book enlightening, and for everyone else it's a fast, riveting read; dark, but beautifully paced and crackling with painful truth. Five stars at least.

Linda Bulger, 2008
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book dealing trauma and brokenness, December 22, 2011
This review is from: Identical (Hardcover)
Raeanne and Kaeleigh are identical twins. Identical on the outside, at least, but inside, the girls could not be more different. Kaeleigh harbors a secret, Raeanne harbors one as well. As Kaeleigh deals with her fathers unwanted affections, Raeanne pines for them. As Kaeleigh binges, Raeanne purges. As Kaleigh pushes boys away, Raeanne juggles multiple partners. What happens when all the secrets bubble to the surface?

I have read many of Ellen Hopkins' young adult books, but this was, by far, the most powerful of them all. This book focuses on trauma, and the effects it can have on the lives of everyone involved. Trauma spanning generations, states, political affiliations. There is also an emphasis on seeking wholeness in unlikely and unhealthy ways. We see brokenness in nearly every character in the book, each of them using different means to feel whole again.

I thought the character development was so incredibly done, particularly once the secrets are all revealed. This is one of those books that, once you know the ending, you are compelled to go re-read it again, looking for all the hidden clues. And Hopkins is a master of hidden clues. I found this writing to be really brilliant, and it reminds me why I love novels written in verse form so much.

I know that books with tough subject matter are questionable for young adult readers, so parents should be fully aware of the content before allowing their children to read it. This book is probably most appropriate for young adult readers at the older end of that spectrum, late high school to early college age.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotionally impactful and gripping, August 28, 2009
This review is from: Identical (Hardcover)
Ellen Hopkins's IDENTICAL is....WOW! I know that's not much of a review and if I could I would just leave it at that. The last book I felt such amazement for was WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson and although the two books are so different they both have one thing in common... they go for guts, gritty and dark. They go straight for the jugular sparing nothing and showing us the raw insides.
Hopkins is a master writer, lyrical and poignant, as she tells the story of twin girls, Raeanne and Kaeleigh. One who goes off the deep end in a self destructing manner and the other who hides it inside and takes the pain. The girls are troubled by sexual abuse, parents who busy themselves with life and ignore them, emotional and psychological pain that haunts and tatters them occasionally. Each girl battles her own demons in her own way and Hopkins does well to get us inside the battered psyche of the two troubled teens.
Even though I listened to this book the story was just as impactful and heart wrenching as the written, poem like pages might be. Hopkins story was gritty, messy, and painful to listen to but at the end still filled with hope. Point of the story... you always have a choice. I recommend this book to fans of dark and emotional themes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hopkin's best novel, February 27, 2010
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This review is from: Identical (Hardcover)
I really didn't know what to expect when I began reading Identical, the first novel I had ever read by Ellen Hopkins. Since then, I have read the rest of her books but this one is the most powerful and creative than any of her other novels and I am glad I read it first. If you are going to read one book by Hopkins, I would recommend this one.

Hopkins has a unique style of writing. The words on each page are very few and structured more like mini poems which unfold and tell a story which focuses on power, feeling, and emotion instead of description and complex plot. Even though her books normal are around 500 to 600 pages, they feel like a 200 page novel and they easily can be finished in a day or two.

This isn't a novel I want to give a ton of information away about because it has a surprising plot twist that I believe would be a shame to reveal and take away the fascination and intensity one feels when reading it. The twist borders on brilliant or manipulative, depending on your point of view but I choose the former, mainly because the set up is perfectly constructed that I didn't feel cheated in the end. I felt sad, exhausted, and unlike some of Hopkins other novels, there remained some hope to be found in the closing pages of this, at times unbearable journey.

This is a story of identical twins. One twin, Raeanne, is wild, untamed, drug addicted and foul. Katleigh is shy, serious, and haunted twin in a serious relationship but still cannot give herself totally to her boyfriend. The twins have a distant political mother that is always out of town or away and is never there for her daughters. They also have a monster of a father, one of the most horrible villains in any book I have read. And he happens to be a Judge, quite ironically.

I read Identical in a single sitting. You race through it, much like a Dan Brown novel, but has a deeper level of emotion and power to it than a normal mainstream novel. Depth like this is normally not so common in most Young Adult Fiction that I read. And Hopkins never has captured the depth of Identical in any of her other books, though Glass and Crank come close.

At times the book made me appalled, angry and frustrated (especially at the father). I felt sadness for Katleigh and pity for Raeanne, but I always felt something which is a quality of a great novel, the ability for a wide range of feelings to pass through you as you read it. It is this power and enthrallment that helped offset some of the darker and more disturbing elements of the book. Although labeled as young adult novels, Hopkins books feel very much adult to me.

Be warned, this is a tough book to endure at times. However, the ending is redemptive and stunning and I closed the book upon reading it feeling both optimism and despair. I love books that make you think and this will keep the mind reeling long after the last page is turned. It doesn't cross that line of being too depressing like some of Hopkins other novels. Identical is a near masterpiece and an unforgettable experience.

Grade: A
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 2 sisters with different versions of the same problem, October 4, 2009
This review is from: Identical (Hardcover)
Twin sisters, both with secrets. Not just from each other, but from everyone. Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical twins with similar, but different problems.

Kaeleigh is emotional detached, a loner. She rides the school bus to be away from others, she works at a retirement home setting up meals, and she does not leave the house without Daddy's permission. Oh, and she is Daddy's replacement since Mom has moved on to the political arena and out from their lives. He drinks himself practically into oblivion and then sneaks into his daughter's bedroom, like he has for quite a few years, and gets the love he desperately misses from his wife. Too bad the only person she really wants is her best friend Ian.

Raeanne is just the opposite. She craves male attention because she feels unwanted by Daddy. She seeks out that attention in sexually with her drug-supplier and another random guy that she meets while fantasizing about her history teacher. She is rebellious in a sarcastic and smart-allick way, knowing when to stop just shy of "the line". Raeanne also feels like a protector for Kaeleigh. While she knows what's going on between her sister and her father, she does nothing to stop it.

As the election draws near tempers begin to flare as the girls' paternal grandparents, long missing from their lives, resurface separately and attempt contact with the family. The girls, unsure how to handle this and confused at their Daddy's vehement hatred of his own parents, set out to get to the bottom of what's going on; naturally they go about it in different ways with shocking results.

A grab-you-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of book, Identical is astonishing and heart wrenching. Ellen Hopkins has done it again with her artful way of writing just enough that you understand, without having to spell out every single action. The rhythm and meter of her work is captivating and will suck you in in no time. True to form as well, this book has a twist that I am sure no one will see coming. I can't wait to read her latest work, Tricks.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging both in style and subject matter, November 18, 2008
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This review is from: Identical (Hardcover)
Conventional wisdom holds that twins, especially identical twins, share a deeper connection to each other than siblings. This connection goes beyond mere empathy and verges on the metaphysical. Ellen Hopkins, in her latest teen novel, IDENTICAL, uses this idea as a starting point to explore a severely dysfunctional family whose twin daughters are in physical danger and emotional crisis.

Raeanne and Kaeleigh Gardella are the teenage daughters of two successful parents: dad Ray is a prominent judge and mom Kay is expected to win an upcoming senatorial election. The Gardella family is busy, with Kay mostly on the road campaigning and Ray working long hours. The girls have school to occupy them, but while Kaeleigh is involved in typical extracurricular activities, Raeanne spends most of her free time with her drug dealer, smoking pot, drinking and having sex. At home, both girls self-medicate, drinking from their father's bottles and emptying his pill bottles. It soon becomes apparent why: ever since a tragic car accident years ago, Ray has been sexually abusing Kaeleigh.

The twins respond to the abuse, as well as their father's alcoholism and their mother's emotional abandonment, in different ways. One rebels and tries to find power in relationships with men while numbing herself with drugs and alcohol; the other tries to avoid or discourage her father with overeating and emotional passivity while also numbing herself with substances and finally cutting herself to control her own body and the pain she is in. On the outside they seem like an ideal family as long as they all keep up the charade. But several changes in their lives make it impossible to pretend any longer that all is okay in their home.

Their mother is away more and more, and while the girls each begin new relationships with young men, they find out, when their grandparents contact them after many years, the events that so damaged their father. Soon, everything is spiraling out of control for both young ladies and they turn increasingly to drugs and sex, cutting and overeating. Finally, the tension is released with a frightening act and a surprising and astonishing realization. Friends new and old will be there to help pick up the pieces, but in the end, the twins have a steep and difficult road to recovery.

Hopkins's intense and graphic tale is told in non-rhyming verse. Kaeleigh and Raeanne take turns narrating the story with poems that often mirror each other, playing with repeated words and meaning. Some poems are visually styled, depicting the school bell, teardrops, broken hearts, keys and the bottle that symbolizes Ray Gardella. Despite these contrivances, the book is readable. It flows well and the back-and-forth between the girls' voices makes sense throughout, though by the end readers will see it is actually essential to the story.

IDENTICAL is challenging both in style and subject matter. It is literary yet written in a real, relatable (though sometimes clichéd) voice. The subject matter, and Hopkins's handling of it, requires mature readership. The book is not without its flaws, and although the ending may be a tad far-fetched, the main point --- about the damage wrought by abuse and secrets --- is well-taken and important.
--- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotional, moving...strong writing about disturbing things..., October 12, 2008
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Kindle Customer "Mimmi" (RADCLIFF, KY, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Identical (Hardcover)
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My daughter has been an Ellen Hopkins fan for some time. I researched her online when my daughter began asking me for a book called CUT...I just couldn't imagine that this would be good reading for my 15 yr. old. I found on Hopkin's website that she actually is very involved with students, and has recommendations from teachers. I've never been one to censor reading, so I bought the book...and my daughter has been a fan ever since~~reading books with controversial titles such as Crank, Cut, Glass, Burned...I've tried to read them myself, and find the pull...hence my choosing to read Identical. Ms. Hopkins writes in a prose format, almost like reading a journal written as poems. I have a hard time imersing myself in the stories, and the disturbing images that they bring to mind. But they DO bring the images...and the story of Identical pulls you in...you're almost to horrified to quit reading, compelled to find out what secret Kaeleigh and Raeanne have. You're horrified by the sexual abuse Kaeleigh is the victim of, repulsed by the bulemia, drugs, sex that Raeanne inflicts upon herself. You read the story through the eyes of both girls...and see the indiffernce they're suffering from the own mother, the cries for help that aren't heeded...
While this book and this author aren't the type of reading I'd choose for myself, there is no denying Ms. Hopkins is supremely talented, and willing to take on issues that will move, repulse and have you gasping that such things actually take place. Would I recommend this for a 14 year old? No. I wish my daughter had never picked up that first book. But in a society that many of these things are reality, I guess I have to face up to the fact that she knows, and the books help her get it into perspective.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry and trainwrecks: the Beauty of not looking Away., October 15, 2008
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TorridlyBoredShopper "T(to the)B(to the)S" ("Daddy Dagon's Daycare" - Proud Sponsor of the Little Tendril Baseball Team, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Identical (Hardcover)
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I love Ellen Hopkins and was overjoyed to see her creation making its way to me. The way she creates her little character paradigms - the writing that says more that it first seems to say, the way words arrange to make a maze of meanings, her displays that land somewhere other than the other side of rainbows - are fabulous. When I first read Crank I was as addicted as her character, eagerly lapping up page after page with a burning desire that said that I was going to be more than a reader of her work.
Happily, I had become a fan.

In this book, we have struggle highlighted in much the same right as her other books. We see the behaviors that involve eating woes, cutting woes, emotional woes, and a million other fragmented reactions that scream "pain." Hopkins highlights this with the way she writes: while some people put together a jigsaw of first names and A=B=C types of events, she moves her characters through poetry and a march that is beautiful. Simply reading a few lines she writes would win over many people because, unlike a lot of writers, she hides meaning in the already meaningful by making poetic entries into the lives of her characters. Sometimes this makes me feel like a voyeur and other times it makes me feel like a helpless bystander, but it always makes me feel like I know the characters and the dilemma.

It is a rare gift to find in a writer and, honestly, it is one everyone should read. Recommended to all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great Hopkins book!, May 17, 2010
This review is from: Identical (Hardcover)
I was so excited to finally get my hands on Identical. Having read Ellen Hopkins previous books, I expected nothing but a phenomenal story, and it did not disappoint. The two main characters, Raeanne and Kaeleigh are identical twins, they look exactly alike, but their is no similarity in their personalities. With their mom gone due to the election process and herself as a candidate, they only have their dad. Kaleigh is favored by their father and begins to experience things no one should have to go through; sexual abuse. She works at a retirement home and meets an elderly lady, Greta, who shares her secrets and tries to get her to open up about her dark demon. Ian, her faithful boyfriend also tries to help her. Raeanne is all about sex, alcohol and drugs. Although she knows Kaeleigh secret, she still wants to be love by their father. Throughout the book, we learn of family issues like what happened to their father to make him the man he is. Why they've never met their grandmother, and what happened the day of the car crash, years ago. Towards the end of the book, there is a major twist. I had to reread it a couple times, just to make sure I was comprehending it right! I don't won't to give it away, but I will say this: people are not always who they seem to be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Threw me for a loop, January 8, 2009
This review is from: Identical (Hardcover)
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I was intriguid by the concept, twins each telling their side of daily life through high school. Mom is a politician with high aspirations. Dad is a judge. They are a family in the spotlight. The entire story is told through poety. There are some fantastic examples of many different types of poetry. I never saw the plot twist coming, which is rare for me.

I thought this book could be added to my collection at school, but the portrayal of sex and drug use would prevent me from sharing it with my students. That being said, the author spares no punches when dealing with these issues. I think many young adults could put themselves into the shoes of the young ladies in the book, and spare themselves some of the pain they went through.
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Identical
Identical by Ellen Hopkins (Hardcover - August 26, 2008)
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