Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Identical by Ellen Hopkins

Under the surface, identical twins Kaeleigh and Raenne’s life in California’s sleepy wine country is a roiling nightmare. No amount of money, political power, or connections can help them. While their mother campaigns for a seat in Congress, the father is home to ignore Raenne but molest Kaeleigh regularly, which he has been doing for years. The house is a sumptuous hell inhabited by still-living ghosts, all of whom find extreme ways (alcohol and prescription drugs, to name just a couple) to block out the pain.    

The source of some of the trauma is a horrible accident, which happened years ago but still haunts them all. Kaeleigh deals with this and her father’s unsought attentions by being a “good girl” – working at a nursing home and fleeing from her incredibly patient teenage suitor’s embraces. Raenne is the proverbial “bad girl,” chasing street drugs and sex to numb the pain.

Although there are serious problems with this story’s plot, Hopkins’ writing is so hypnotic that it’s easy to withhold disbelief. Even though their situation is so brutally extreme, the girls’ voices – piercing and realistic in their fear of what is and hunger for something else– feel incredibly real.

All of Hopkins' books are extremely popular with struggling readers, especially  girls.

Bibliotherapeutic value: The book underscores the value of connecting with others and sharing secrets in order to heal. Though both girls are fully aware of what they’re doing and (usually) why, nothing can break them out of their cycle until they break their silence.

Hopkins, Ellen. Identical. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books - Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2008. 

ISBN: 978-1-4169-5005-9. $17.99.

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