- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (July 26, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1481456776
- ISBN-13: 978-1481456777
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 44 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,326,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gemini Hardcover – July 26, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Clara and Hailey are conjoined twins, attached at the hip and sharing a spinal cord. They've lived in the same small town their whole lives, where their parents have worked tirelessly to give them a "normal" childhood. Now seniors in high school, the twins are compelled to admit that they are, in fact, completely different people: Clara is introverted and scientific; pink-haired Hailey is gregarious and artistic. Clara never wants to leave Bear Pass; Hailey wants to be anywhere that isn't here. But it's only when Clara falls for handsome newcomer Max, and Hailey decides to ask Alek to the Sadie Hawkins dance, that they really start to consider what their futures will be like: falling in love, getting married, and having a family begin to look like impossibilities. Even going to college will be difficult given how different their passions are. Finally, the sisters contemplate the once unthinkable step of surgical separation, in opposition to their parents' wishes. The girls' alternating voices move the story along. With nuance, Mukherjee shows their differences as well as their similarities and exposes the many difficulties, large and small, experienced by the very few people with this condition. The girls' decision, at the end, feels right to them, and although readers may not agree with it, it is a natural progression of their character development. Thought provoking and engaging, this story of two girls finding their own unusual path to adulthood will pull readers in and give them a lot to think about. VERDICT A strong addition to YA collections, particularly where unique and character-driven realistic stories are in demand.—Elizabeth Friend, Wester Middle School, TX
"Compelling and suspenseful from Page 1; Clara and Hailey pull readers into their unique world and don't let go." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"While leavened with comfortable teen-literature tropes, this debut isn't high-concept-fueled candy floss. The twins' distance from "normal," all that circumscribes their conjoined world, is ever present, and the struggle to sustain their senses of self is visceral. . . . Readers who've wondered why some choose to live with a disability that might be "cured" will find plenty to ponder here. As developments in genetics reshape the medical landscape, these questions will only resonate further. Compelling and suspenseful from Page 1; Clara and Hailey pull readers into their unique world and don't let go." --(Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW)
"Thought provoking and engaging, this story of two girls finding their own unusual path to adulthood will pull readers in and give them a lot to think about." --(School Library Journal)
“Beautifully written, raw and utterly unique, GEMINI is more than a story about conjoined twins…. Mukherjee succeeds in marrying sincere characters and intense emotion with an articulate voice, producing a story that is unforgettable.” - Teenreads
"Gemini is a love story like you've never read before." - Bustle
"With her debut novel, Sonya Mukherjee sensitively envisions how two conjoined sisters grow through their high school years.... Nothing is easily resolved here. There are achingly huge decisions and risks ahead for the twins. This is recommended reading for fans of thought-provoking novels such as Luanne Rice’s The Secret Language of Sisters or Amélie Sam’s I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister." - BookPage (BookPage Teen Top Pick, August 2016)
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No high expectations in the world could have prepared me for how phenomenal this book is.
Gemini tells the story of conjoined twins Clara and Hailey. Their parents chose not to separate them after birth because of the risks, particularly because they’re connected at the bottom ends of their spinal cords, and their intestines are intertwined. Otherwise, they have two sets of arms and legs, and two distinct personalities, fashion sense, interests, and career goals.
They live in a small California town, and when they were younger, their mother visited school regularly and arranged playdates to make the community aware of their presence to prevent stares and such. By the time they’re in high school, they have attained a level of understanding amongst their peers and have solid friendships. I really enjoyed the camaraderie and support between Hailey and Clara and their friends Juanita and Bridget. There’s also the equivalent of a “mean girl” character, but the book doesn’t devolve into cattiness, a later confrontation with this girl includes unexpected and believable depth and an opportunity for narrative reflection.
The story takes place during the first part of their senior year, and it’s a time in a young adult’s life that’s rife with story potential. Themes of fitting in, first crushes and kisses, applying to college, and finding oneself make their way into the pages. Add in a new (and cute) boy in school and a Sadie Hawkins Dance—a perfect narrative choice, as it allows Clara and Hailey to optimistically ponder asking boys to the dance and also pessimistically wonder if boys would want to go with them because of their unique situation.
All these elements make this book sound like almost any other YA contemporary novel. And to some extent, it is—and there’s not a darn thing wrong with that. In fact, I praise author Mukherjee for making this story feel so comfortable. Just because a book is telling the story of characters who are “different” in some way, the book need not be different. Just as Hailey and Clara don’t appreciate stares and whispers, I believe they wouldn’t appreciate their YA story to focus on their conjoined-ness but instead be a story about their individual uniqueness while they happen to be conjoined. And within the pages of this YA novel, Mukherjee gives us just that.
And we’re given so much more. The issues their parents faced upon their birth—whether or not to separate Clara and Hailey in a risky surgery that could result in paralysis and/or death—are also dealt with. As a parent of (fraternal) twin daughters, it wasn’t a stretch to imagine myself in their situation and wonder what I would have done. I don’t have an answer other than doing everything I could to raise and protect my children, and that’s what their mother does. But I’d also want my girls to grow into wonderful, compassionate, independent thinkers like Hailey and Clara.
It was easy to empathize with these characters, and I often found myself cheering and crying for them. At the end of several chapters, I had to put the book down and process my own emotions. But I always picked it back up because I was so deeply engaged by their narration.
One of many strengths of the book is the narration. The chapters alternate between Clara and Hailey’s first-person point of view. It’s no surprise that the story is told this way, and the decision to do so isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but the execution is exceptional. Mukherjee switched the perspective at all the right times, making the story seamless, but she also uses the device in interesting ways, such as (1) to establish tension when one twin sees something and the other (the one narrating) doesn’t know it yet, and (2) to explore deep themes when something really awesome happens to one twin, yet the scene is narrated by the other twin!
I won’t apologize for being vague because I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but that second example underscores two innate human desires: to be independent and not be alone. All of us, no matter what uniqueness we’re born with, deserve as much and deserve happiness, but it comes only with self-acceptance. By the end, Hailey and Clara make a powerful statement about that, and it was an absolute pleasure to experience the ride with them.
This is a MUST-READ book, it gets FIVE STARS from me, and there’s no doubt that Gemini will be near the top of my year-end favorite books list.
To begin with, a book about conjoined twin sisters was not something I expected to see this year. Even when I picked up GEMINI, I was thinking, okay, it's probably about stargazing! So wow. Amazed me right out of the gate.
What impressed me even more was the way Mukherjee constantly made me feel like I was reading a story about two sisters. Which, of course, is exactly what I was reading. But the fact of being conjoined was so natural and so everyday for protagonists Clara and Hailey that, even though it came up on almost every page, most of the time it was very practical. The girls navigate everyday situations and, for the most part, new situations, with the same blend of ease and insecurity that a lot of teenage girls might feel. It's really really good, guys.
At the end of the book, Hailey and Clara are forced to make some big decisions about the future, and while I won't give anything away, I will say that Mukherjee doesn't pull any punches here. I think it was handled absolutely perfectly.
I recommend this book to everyone with a sister, and really, everyone else too. Five stars.
Where the book shone, I think, was in the depiction of the town. It didn't go for the easy hooks and the easy plot points. There weren't mean girls and soul-crushing embarrassment. The characters didn't feel by-the-numbers, and the conflict felt like it arose from their individual desires and circumstances. And, in the end, there weren't easy answers, especially when it came to romance, but there was also plenty of hope, which is exactly, I think, why you read a book like this: in order to experience faith in other people and hope for our futures.
But Hailey wants to travel the world, see everything. Clara wants to go to outer space. Mukherjee does not pull any punches when she examines each girl’s desires, and the limitations that hold them back. This is an important book about dreams, and the pull they have at our individual hearts. And love, the tremendous sacrifices we make for those we care for most deeply.
This is a beautifully crafted novel that is wholly original and so moving. I am thrilled that it is in the world. Highly recommend.