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Customer Review

30 of 32 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
This review is from: Identical (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
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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Showing 1-10 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 19, 2008 12:13:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 19, 2008 12:17:55 PM PDT
Wow! What a rave review, LINDA. Sounds like this book really got to you.

I met author Ellen Hopkins at a joint book-signing in Dayton, Nevada in 2006. My friend, author Chris Platt, and I were on the panel (signing books too) with her friend Ellen. At the time, Ellen was elated because her 2004 novel "Crank," also in verse form, had recently sold 60,000 copies. We were all happy for her. I hesitated reading the book--which was inspired by her first-hand experiences with a close relative and drugs--because I couldn't comprehend how anyone could make verse work in such a long work. But work, it DID! Your review convinced me, even more than the fact that "Crank" became a best-seller. Ellen has written several more books with drug themes since then. I don't know if the others are in verse, but it's good to learn about "Identical." I'll go back and read "Crank"; then on to "Identical." ... but not too close together. ;-)

This book sounds like a real thriller/eye-opener. Sad to say, but things like this can (and do) happen in too many families in this meth/drug-infested world. "Painful truth," as you say in your beautifully-written review. I can't wait to read it and to see the original design as you describe it. Awesome!!!

Posted on Oct 19, 2008 5:18:16 PM PDT
R. Nicholson says:
Linda. A book on a tough subject; teens in limbo.
Not a book I'd enjoy, but an excellent review.

Posted on Oct 19, 2008 5:45:37 PM PDT
Linda, your review really captured my interest. I have this book to review, also, and had been reluctant to read it -- having glanced inside and noting that it was in verse and quite lengthy. But now, after your review, I shall give it a try.

Posted on Oct 19, 2008 7:20:09 PM PDT
Miz Ellen says:
Astonishing book, but this is a thoughtful and careful review--as always, great job, Linda!

Posted on Oct 19, 2008 7:58:58 PM PDT
This sounds like a book that's original and painstakingly crafted. For someone who reads like you, this book must be a find.

Posted on Oct 19, 2008 8:14:21 PM PDT
Riveting review, Linda. Sounds like a real cracker.

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 12:32:19 AM PDT
Andre 2015 says:
Very nice review Linda! The book is good, the writing too - that's for sure. I tried her earlier stories but was turned off by the way the text block is printed/designed.
I wouldn't want to call it verse cause to me it isn't - just a waste of paper. True, sometimes it works and it's easier this way to make a statement with just one word out of line. I just don't like to read an entire story with four to five word lines.
I think this is great for people in a similar situation or risking to drift off towards it, no matter, youths or adults. On the other hand I don't like the writer uses so many cliches. Come on, the twin thing, that's straight out of a lecturing comic book. A little less "juice" here and there might make the entire thing more real to me.

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 5:42:54 AM PDT
Karen Joan says:
Linda, I looked a this book, but picked another. It sounds like I made an error. This is a excellent review of a very tough subject. Nice job.

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 3:05:43 PM PDT
Sounds like a tough book, with a real dark side. Your review is excellent.

Posted on Oct 20, 2008 3:32:51 PM PDT
Linda Bulger says:
Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Betty, yes this book DID get to me. That's quite a coincidence that you met the author at a book signing, small world! I didn't realize that she wrote her first book out of the sad experience of her family. She certainly was convincing in this one.

Andre, you make some valid points and I agree that it's not all free verse, lots of it is text word-wrapped to shapes. For me, the format was punchy and effective; for example, where there was dialog, the text was unencumbered by "he said" / "she said" -- instead it was rendered with offset text and alternating italics. It left no doubt as to who was speaking, or in some cases whose words were being recalled, but it was extremely direct.

As for your mention of cliches and the triteness of the twin plot, it may be that the YA crowd wouldn't see it that way, and I didn't really see it that way myself. Of course that's what makes the world go round -- no book does the job for every reader. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my review, I'm glad for the feedback.
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