Identical

19 Sep

On the surface the Gardella family is picture perfect. Dad is a district court judge, mom is running for a Senate seat, and identical twin sisters Raeanne and Kaeleigh both do well in school.  But as the story unfolds we learn that beneath the surface things are not as they seem.  Mom is emotionally withdrawn and never at home except for the select photo op and Daddy is an alcoholic who has been sexually abusing Kaeleigh since she was 9 years old.  The twins deal with their parents’ betrayal in different ways; Raeanne numbs herself from life’s pain with drugs and booze and uses sex to try to find power in her relationships with men, while Kaeleigh cuts herself to feel control and binges to discourage her father’s advances.

This one’s intense!  Basically the young women in this story deal with just about every serious issue that a parent hopes and dreams that their child will never have to deal with.  I have to say that I generally pride myself on catching any and all signs of foreshadowing, on not being utterly surprised by plot developments, but this one had me with my jaw dropped to the floor by the end.   The story is written in free verse poetry told in alternating voices between Raeanne and Kaeleigh.  The reader of the audiobook, Laura Flanagan – who has performed Hopkins’ work before – brings the characters to life, giving the twins contrasting voices and making their verses come across as extremely natural and everyday.

Hopkins’ books are frequently challenged as they deal with serious and sometimes dark subject matter and are aimed at a young adult audience.  In the past two years Hopkins has seen invitations withdrawn from a planned visit to an Oklahoma school to the recent controversy with the Teen Lit Festival in Humble, TX. Last year she lent a poem to Banned Books Week.  I can understand why some parents want to shelter their kids from the scary-scary that inhabits Hopkins’ work and even why some kids would not want to read her work. Identical is really hard to read – depressing really – but I don’t think that is a legitimate reason to ban a work of literature (let alone if this book were plain old smut).  And the truth is that as hard as it was to make it through Identical, it was a unique experience that I was glad to partake in and I highly suggest the book to anyone able to deal with the dark.

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Reader: Laura Flanagan
Publisher: High Bridge Audio (2008)

8 Responses to “Identical”

  1. Nikki 19. Sep, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    I have yet to read any of Ellen Hopkins’ books, but I’ve heard so many good things about how the books tackle realistic and difficult subjects. I agree that even though this, as well as Hopkins other books, focuses on a difficult subject matter, it should not be banned.

    If anything, a book like this should be put out there more because those who may be going through a similar situation may then realize that they are not alone.

  2. Patricia O'Brien 19. Sep, 2010 at 8:13 pm #

    Wow, this book sounds very dark but fascinating. I like the idea of the two voices in verse. I would think that would lend a haunting tone to it. I’ll have to check it out.
    Thanks for visiting my blog. Let’s keep speaking out for banned books!

  3. Alison 19. Sep, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    Wow. I haven’t heard about this one before. It sounds fabulous. Thanks for the review!

  4. Robert Bittner 20. Sep, 2010 at 1:26 am #

    I’ve been holding off for a bit because of my huge reading list for school, but this is one I might have to pick up anyway. It’s not like profs really expect you to read everything on the syllabus… right?

  5. jeannine 20. Sep, 2010 at 5:50 am #

    Wowie-kazowie. Sounds intense. Not sure if I can handle it but will give it a try. As for the parents who want to ban books, I’m always curious as to what movies their kids are watching and what video games they are playing. How come you never hear about banned movies?? Books, movies, videogames, toys it’s all a choice. If you don’t want to expose your kids to it, don’t buy it.

  6. Em 20. Sep, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    I highly suggest this one on audiobook. The writing lends itself well to vocal performance and the narrator is excellent. I have yet to venture into reading books (standard paper book style) written in verse and this was a nice way to ease myself in (although ease seems an unfitting word given the context of the story).

  7. Miss K 26. Sep, 2010 at 5:11 am #

    I was also shocked by the twist in Identical, but really didn’t like the book at all. While I don’t believe in banning books, I also would not recommend this book to anyone because of the subject matter. I like your balanced review!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Love & Sex in YA Lit: THE BAD | Em & Lo: Sex. Love. And Everything in Between. - 09. Dec, 2010

    [...] Identical by Ellen Hopkins (2008) — This novel in verse is told from the perspective of twin sisters, one who is sexually molested by their father and the other who deals with their father’s “favoritism” by seeking out sex with drug dealers and random, scummy guys. Sex scenes in YA are not frequently written with much detail, but the sexual assault by “Daddy” is some of the more graphic sex we’ve come across in YA.  Disturbing with a capital D. Check out our full review of Identical on LoveYALit. [...]

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