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One Hardcover – September 15, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Crossan's latest is written in free verse and follows two sisters through their unique high school experience as they make the most important decision of their lives. Tippi and Grace are "literally joined at the hip—united in blood and bone." While they have two heads, two hearts, two sets of lungs and kidneys, and four arms, they are one from the waist down. They are happy together; they embrace life and could not imagine being separated. That is, until their doctor recommends separation as the only fighting chance for them to survive an illness. They must then consider the dangerous operation that could kill them. The author successfully depicts what it is like to be two and then what it is like to be one. Readers will be taken on an emotional roller coaster throughout this book; feelings range from contentment and joy to desolation and anxiety. The supporting characters such as Tippi and Grace's first and subsequently best friends, Jon and Yasmeen, greatly add to the touching plot. Fans of Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun (Dial, 2014) will appreciate this lyrical world. VERDICT A homage to the love between sisters that readers will remember for a long time.—Morgan O'Reilly, Riverdale Country School, NY
“Grace’s elegant and intimate first-person narration combines with her wry sense of humor to create a likable character in a believable situation. This is honest, unapologetic realism from a diverse perspective not often seen in young-adult fiction. Not to be overlooked.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Employing free verse to chronicle their coming of age, British author Crossan smoothly embeds historical and medical information regarding her well–researched topic while intently portraying each twin’s personality and unique characteristics. …Crossan trusts her characters and her readers to find their better selves through her gently paced story.” (Booklist)
“Writing mainly from Grace’s perspective, Crossan interjects the voices of friends and family, offering a glimpse of the difficulties conjoined twins and their loved ones face. In asking important questions about how bodies shape identity, Crossan’s novel achieves a striking balance between sentimentality and sisterly devotion. (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Poignant and compelling…Though the sisters have unique physical challenges, they share that universal teen desire to fit in, fall in love, and find a distinct identity.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))
“Through her understated, evocative narration, Grace’s coming of age becomes a meditation on difference, a celebration of the deepest bonds of sisterhood, and…a stirring tragedy. Grace’s uniquely moving “story of how it is to be Two” will inspire compassion-and elicit plenty of tears.” (The Horn Book)
“A tender yet resilient story of closeness and identity…it’s a story of Grace, who’s built her entire identity and existence on being entwined with her sister and who now contemplates what it would mean to be a single person.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review))
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Top Customer Reviews
Being a teenager and finding a way to belong is already difficult when you aren't conjoined and for Grace and Tippi there are extra obstacles. Fortunately they find two amazing friends and have the chance to do regular teenage things. While they finally have some fun something unexpected and life changing is about to happen and Grace and Tippi will be forced to make the hardest choice they've ever made.
One is a beautiful story about two amazing girls. Grace is sensible and kind. She dreams of being in love. Tippi is matter-of-fact, caring and easy to influence. I liked both of their characters, they're strong, brave and resilient. I loved that they talk about everything, they don't steer clear of difficult subjects, and that they're also prepared do things they don't particularly like when one of them badly wants something. They're extraordinary and the way the book has been written makes them even more fantastic. I loved that Sarah Crossan has chosen to write her novel in free verse, it adds an extra emotional layer to the story. It's beautiful, raw and honest and it touches the core of what she wants to say.
One is a brilliant book. It's been written with empathy and sensitivity, but it's direct and realistic at the same time. There are happy and sad moments, there are tears and joy and worries and hope and it was so easy to laugh and cry with the main characters. I love books about sisters and Sarah Crossan's main characters are very special. This adds an extra dimension to the story. Her stunning sentences are thoughtful and deep and she shows what it's like to be a teenager while having a disability in an impressive way. Grace and Tippi have the same fantasies, dreams and insecurities as any other teenager, but they are also conjoined. I liked that their handicap isn't what they are, but just part of them, which is exactly how it should be and I applaud Sarah Crossan for noticing this and making it a key part of her work. Everything together makes One is an absolute must-read, I highly recommend this mind-blowing story.
As there are conjoined twins, they have lived their entire lives together. But never have they felt that the other is intrusive to their life, or hoped for separation. They may snap at each other at times - Tippy being the snapper usually, but their love for each other is so strong. Grace is the dreamy one while Tippy is the pragmatic one, but they aren't limited to that. Tippy loves her sister so much that she wouldn't want to be separated, even if it kills them both. Grace just wants to save Tippy from dying along with her. The pain and loss shines through the writing, delivering a story of two girls who have just wanted to be normal, as they are.
Their friendship with Yasmeen and Jon brings a new kind of joy in their lives. They also find that not everybody becomes a monster around them, as evident by Yasmeen never for once caring that they are conjoined. The family situation, is also explored, with their monetary problems affecting their choices; they have a younger sister who loves to dance and for her, they are ready to do the one thing they never wanted to.
Overall, it is a pretty fast read, because of the verse; but I didn't feel it to be incomplete. Beautiful and heartbreaking storyline
it’s deemed a success so
long as one of them lives.
For a while.
is the saddest thing
I know about how
people see us.
Sixteen-year-old Grace and Tippi are ischiopagus tripus conjoined twins. Fused at the lower halves of their bodies, they look perfectly “normal” – beautiful even – from the waist up (as Grace wistfully notes on at least one occasion). They have two heads, two hearts, two sets of lungs and kidneys, four arms, and a pair of fully functioning legs between them. Their intestines begin apart, and then merge; below that, they are one.
Summer is coming to a close, and their parents have just announced that they’ll be attending school – for the first time ever – in September. Up until now, the girls have been homeschooled at their apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey, where they live with their parents; their paternal grandmother; and their younger sister, Nicola (“Dragon”). But the donations have dried up, and the state will only offer financial assistance if they attend a private school. And so it is they come to begin their junior year in Hornbeacon High School in nearby Montclair.
If you think you know where the story’s headed from here, join the club. I expected ONE to be a story about bullying, at least at the outset. And while Grace and Tippi do encounter no small amount of fear, hostility, and tactlessness – not just from their fellow classmates, but also teachers, neighbors, shopkeepers, extended family, and even their own doctors, who flaunt them like a medical exhibit – their transition to Hornbeacon goes surprisingly well.
This is thanks in no small part to Yasmeen, a fellow outcast who immediately and enthusiastically takes the twins under her wing. Yasmeen was infected with HIV as a baby, so she can relate to the twins on multiple levels: Yasmeen understands what it’s like to live with a likely death sentence handed down at birth. She’s also all too familiar with the distrust and fear that Grace and Tippi must contend with daily.
There’s also Jon, the cute boy with walnut-brown eyes and stars that dance with his hands. Attending Hornbeacon on a scholarship, he lives in a ramshackle house with his stepfather Cal. His mom ran off, but Cal agreed to stick around long enough for Jon to finish high school. Jon doesn’t flinch when he looks at the twins – and he treats Grace like a bona fide person, instead of a monster or freak or one half of a broken whole. For the first time in her sixteen and a half years, Grace wonders what life might be like separate from Tippi; the possibility both excites and terrifies her.
Think you know what’s coming next? Wrong. It’s not Jon who threatens to tear the twins apart. No girl does anything stupid for the love of a boy here, nosiree.
When Grace develops cardiomyopathy, the girls face an impossible decision: if they’re not separated, Tippi’s heart is likely to give out as well, from the strain of pumping blood through both their bodies. But the chances of survival, for either girl (let alone them both) are painfully low. Grace and Tippi, Tippi and Grace; it’s always been this way. After a lifetime of near-total togetherness, can the girls live apart? Do they even want to?
Told from Grace’s point of view in free verse (the book consists of 231 short poems in total), ONE is as unique as it is heartrending. This is only the second book written in free verse I’ve ever read; I thought the technique worked quite well in Holly Bodger’s 5 TO 1, but here it makes the story sing. And shine and sparkle and every other wonderful thing you can think of. Seriously, there aren’t enough adjectives in the English language to adequately describe my love for this book.
Grace and Tippi are just a pleasure to get to know. Grace’s poetry crackles with insight, a wry sense of humor, and an obvious love for her twin that’s occasionally tinged with annoyance and jealousy. Crossan does a masterful job of capturing the sisters’ obvious bond – a bond that, no doubt, sometimes threatens to bind and choke, particularly when Grace and Tippi are at odds: over acquiescing to private school; smoking and drinking; humoring their parents; even something as simple as caffeine consumption (Tippi is yay to Grace’s nay) proves a sticking point. As Grace notes, with just a hint of resentment
When Tippi wants something
she takes it with
with a body that belongs to us both.
It’s difficult to imagine myself in Grace and Tippi’s shoes, since their life is so unlike my own; I value my privacy, and they have so very little. Nearly every decision Grace makes affects Tippi as well, and vice versa. And while this is clearly a source of conflict for them, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Also interesting are the little strategies they employ to steal a little alone time: each twin listens to music blasted on headphones while the other kvetches to her therapist. Grace frequently reads while Tippi sleeps or surfs the ‘net. And it’s after Tippi has retired for the night that Grace finally checks an item off her bucket list: her first kiss.
While Grace and Tippi are the stars of the book, Crossan deals with a number of Very Important Issues in the supporting cast as well. Their fourteen-year-old sister Dragon is an aspiring ballet dancer; it quickly becomes obvious (to us, anyway; it takes Grace a little longer to catch on) that she’s suffering from anorexia. Dad is unemployed and an alcoholic; and when mom loses her job too, the family’s already tenuous finances go into a tailspin. Grammie is forced to sell her jewelry; Dragon has to work off her classes at her ballet studio.
Burdened by guilt, Grace and Tippi agree to star in a documentary. Reporter Caroline Henley has been hounding them for years. In exchange for near-total access, the girls get $50,000. Yet Caroline isn’t half the bloodsucking vulture she appears at first glance; when Grace and Tippi enter the hospital, Caroline leaves her camera at home. Along with Yasmeen and Jon, she ends up being a pretty honest friend in the end.
There’s clearly a wealth of research behind ONE; Crossan references both Chang and Eng Bunker (the infamous “Siamese” twins, who married sisters and fathered twenty-one children between them;
They lived, loved, fought,
and died together
which gives me hope
and makes me wonder
what’s stopping us
a little Siamese
as well as Daisy and Violet Hilton (who, like Grace and Tippi, performed for crowds – but died penniless. Also, in a chilling bit of foreshadowing, they died side-by-side of the Hong Kong flu.) In the Author’s Note, Crossan reveals that she based Grace and Tippi’s physiology on that of Masha and Dasha Krivoshlyapova, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 53. Their mother was told that they died in birth – when in fact they were institutionalized in Russia and experimented on for over twenty years.
ONE is easily one of the loveliest and most memorable books I’ve read (or will read) this year; I cannot recommend it highly enough. While the ending is unbearably sad, it’s not completely devoid of hope; nonetheless, you’ll find yourself clinging to the many humorous and heartfelt moments leading up to that last.
** Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through Edelweiss. **
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Verse novels aren't usually my thing, but this genre is so perfect for this story.Read more
What intrigued me: I was in the mood for some novels in verse!Read more
Answer: Books that approach diverse life experiences.
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