Tippi and Grace. Grace and Tippi. For them, it's normal to step into the same skirt. To hook their arms around each other for balance. To fall asleep listening to the other breathing. To share. And to keep some things private. Each of the sixteen-year-old girls has her own head, heart, and two arms, but at the belly, they join. And they are happy, never wanting to risk the dangerous separation surgery. But the girls' body is beginning to fight against them. And Grace doesn't want to admit it. Not even to Tippi. How long can they hide from the truth—how long before they must face the most impossible choice of their lives?
Told in poetry (specifically, free verse), ONE is an interesting tale of Grace, who is the conjoined twin of Tippi. To me, it's a unique and original story that I haven't read before. I so rarely read poetry, and it was very surprising when I first opened the book and saw it written in verses. I admit that I don't like poetry, because I'm very unused to its language and its writing style and its appearance. But ONE settles me in smoothly, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
First of all, I love the amount of research put into this book. I'm not well-versed in the subject of conjoined twins, but when reading this book, I feel like I learn facts not just feel the emotional rollercoaster that is Grace.
Grace is the introvert while Tippi is the extrovert. These two girls, who are identical twins that never quite separated at birth, are nearly almost complete opposites. But they love each other anyway, and they know each other better than anyone else. Their relationship is truly fascinating, and throughout the book, they lived their teenage years together. They went through everything together, facing rough topics like death and separation. And darn, when Grace talks, I gain another perspective and see things in a much different light.
I knew the ending before I read it. I was tipped off by the illustrations that are made on the first page of every single new part of the book. Besides, the title should probably tip off most readers, but yes, the ending is truly heartbreaking yet also uplifting. (It isn't so emotional for me, because I have a weak connection to a certain character. Therefore, I did not cry.)
The free verses are pretty, and the titles are unique. But as a seldom reader of poetry, I can't judge them. But I can tell you all that they flow without a hitch, and I understood the story/plot quite easily as if I'm reading a novel with heavy dialogue and wordy prose.
The plot is very active, but it is Grace (and Tippi) who drives the plot and makes the decisions. The story is never boring, and Grace has so many words to (internally) say.
In conclusion, ONE, which is YA Contemporary, is a beautiful and emotional tale. It is for fans of The Sister's Keeper, and it's ultimately a tale of two sisters told in stanzas and lines. Though they may seem to be abnormally joined together, they truly are soulmates.
Rating: Four out of Five
Despite the size of the book, the free verse telling makes it a surprisingly quick read. (I’m certain it’s the first time this reader has finished a 400 page book in under 3 hours!) And let me just say, I’ve rarely seen a more perfect cover for a book.
The story is told exclusively from the first-person present-tense perspective of Grace, the more steady and introverted of a set of conjoined twins--who present with separate arms and upper torsos, but share everything from the navel down. Grace and Tippi’s family forms part of the external conflict, between their live-in grandmother, ballerina little sister, breadwinner mother, and alcoholic father. But the catalyst is the girls switching from homeschooling to suddenly entering a “real” high school.
The author admits to being directly influenced by the real life story of Brittany and Abby Hensel, dicephalic parapagus twins from a small farming town in Minnesota. But those who’ve followed the lives of said twins, and/or watched their inspiring show on TLC, won’t find many similarities in the personalities or family life of the Hensels as compared with the fictional Tippi and Grace. When the Hensels chose to show their lives to the world, it was to educate and raise awareness. Tippi and Grace, on the other hand, are essentially forced into a media contract as a last financial resort.
What I liked:
The fascinating psychological implications of the twins’ situation are handled with an astute matter-of-factness and poignant sensitivity. Certain nuances rang quite true: the girls’ insistence upon individuality and the understandable social preference for each twin being addressed as a unique entity, despite their obvious physical interdependence….guarding their privacy and hating to be photographed or videoed without their permission….longing to know what separation would be like but unable to imagine the emptiness of life apart….etc.
What Didn’t Work For Me:
To this reader, the free verse format was often more depth-inhibiting than enhancing. The rhythm was sometimes clunky and rarely what I could take as poetic. Physical descriptions are often lacking, even when it seems they could have benefited from the structural layout. Add to that the life-threatening and tragedy elements and this story had echoes of John Green, but without the more quotable way with word assembly.
Readers may also do a bit of eye-rolling at the stereotypical high school setting—where the jocks are bad, the staff doesn’t think to prepare students for an exceedingly rare situation, cruel notes are left on lockers, and only two outcasts in the entire school apparently have the guts to treat the twins with decency or intrinsic value. While there was some attempt at a love interest, Jon and Grace’s chemistry is almost non-existent—and that doesn’t have as much to do with the conjoined twin aspect as one would think. Jon is simply forgettable. Yasmeen, their only other school friend, leaves a far more vibrant and believable impression.
The ending is foreseeable from early on, and not what this reader could call satisfying. Although on the whole, I suspect avid ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ fans are likely to derive the most meaning and reading pleasure out of this work of realistic fiction.
“When you share a life, seeing your sister’s boobs doesn’t really feel like a big deal.”