One by Sarah Crossan. 391 p. Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins Publishers, September, 2015. 780062118752.
Sixteen-year-old conjoined twins, Tippi and Grace have been home-schooled until now. Finances have always been strained due to their medical condition; but thanks to the recent unemployment of their alcoholic father, their mother has to work. So they will be attending school for the first time - as juniors. It's hard enough being the new girls. I couldn't imagine what it must be like for anyone like Tippi and Grace - until I read this powerful verse novel.
It has been awhile since I've been gut-punched by a book. Spare and lyrical, this is an intense story of sisterhood, family and friendship. The sisterhood and twin-ship of Tippi and Grace are deepened as well as complicated by the fact that they are conjoined. The story is told through Grace's point-of-view. Grace is quieter, more bookish and introspective. Tippi is fiery and edgy. Grace often relies on Tippi to set the tone, but also balances Tippi's fire when it threatens to overwhelm her.
The anger they want to feel for their father's alcoholism is overpowered by the guilt they feel over the financial strain their care has placed on their family. They also feel guilty that their sister, Dragon has to work to pay for her ballet lessons. She is a gifted dancer and there's just no money for any extras, especially a trip to Russia to dance at the Bolshoi. Grace also suspects Dragon may be anorexic.
At school, two best friends and defiant outcasts, Jon and Yasmeen take the twins under their wings and shepherd them through the day. Grace realizes that these two are their first friends. Soon Grace and Tippi are doing what "normal" teens do - cutting class, lying to their folks, getting drunk and, for Grace, at least, having a crush. But normal can't last for long.
Do not read this book in any sort of public place such as the subway or the faculty room (as I did) or folks will witness your ugly cry. Sometimes, I become so inundated with arcs that gems become lost in a sea of gems. I hauled a bag of arcs into my library last week and when a voracious eighth grade reader came in to find a new book, I let her have at my bag. She found One and took it home for the long weekend. When she returned it, her face was filled with such emotion as she tried to explain how wonderful but how terribly sad the book is. I set the book aside to read for myself.
We have bonded over this book. I am so happy she found it and shared this under-the-radar gem with me. I cannot wait to share it with my students who love sad, gut-punching books. I hope this book gets the time to develop the readership it deserves.