Monday, September 8, 2008
IDENTICAL by Ellen Hopkins
Secrets. IDENTICAL is all about secrets.
Twins Kaeleigh and Raeanne are alike in many ways, but each have their own secrets. In fact they are part of a family that is full of secrets. Their father, a district-court judge, has his own unspeakable secret. Their mother, a soon-to-be elected Congresswoman, has her own hidden secret. Even their grandparents have decade-old secrets they are reluctant to reveal.
Although the twins are identical in appearance, their personalities take them in very different directions. Raeanne, the risk taker, involves herself in questionable sexual relationships and experimentation with illegal drugs. Her goal is to numb herself to the world around her. She feels unloved by her parents and powerless when it comes to protecting her more vulnerable sister. Kaeleigh is the compliant one. Her need to please and satisfy makes her the easy target of a father looking for the wrong kind of love in a very wrong place.
The hidden lives of all the characters are slowly revealed as Kaeleigh and Raeanne alternate as narrators describing their world. Each girl handles life as best she can, since each feels alone and unable to seek help or guidance from even those they come to call friends.
IDENTICAL is Ellen Hopkins at her best. Once again she uses her unique style to communicate the story. The verse is straightforward and honest. Although some say they find her directness too harsh, I appreciate that she doesn't sugar-coat the controversial issues she chooses to tackle. There isn't anything "nice" about what happens in IDENTICAL, and Hopkins doesn't try to cheapen it by softening the facts. Readers should brace themselves for a gritty story, but it's one that will have them appreciating the simple love and trust present in their own lives.