A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gemini is a coming-of-age story about conjoined twins Clara and Hailey, who are navigating the ups and downs of their teen years. Issues such as dating and figuring out life after high school are hard enough on most teens, but the girls have the added complication of being joined at the hip -- literally. One can't make a decision that doesn't affect the other. The book hits on common teen topics: dating, friendships, disagreements with parents, and schoolwork. Clara and Hailey challenge each other on important matters, such as getting out in the world where they get treated like freaks versus never leaving their small town or taking a chance with dating, knowing they'll never have "normal" relationships. The content is tame, in that the romance aspect isn't explicit, there's no violence, swearing is infrequent, and the characters don't drink, smoke, or do drugs.
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What's the story?
GEMINI tells the story of conjoined twins Clara and Hailey, who are struggling to figure out how to enjoy typical teen rites of passage and how to follow their separate goals into adulthood. After they were born in Los Angeles, their parents moved them to Bear Pass, a tiny California mountain town. The idea was to keep them out of the public eye and in a community where everyone would know and accept them. This works until the girls want more out of life than their small town can offer. Even though the girls are literally joined at the hip, they are very different. Clara has a quiet, subdued personality and loves astronomy; Hailey is vibrant and outgoing and wants to become an artist. The story follows them as they meet boys, pursue their different interests, and compromise endlessly with each other and their parents over every aspect of their lives. All the typical teen dramas and concerns are amplified because of their condition. The story shows that while being a conjoined twin is a challenge, it also offers a unique relationship others find difficult to understand.
Is it any good?
In this cute coming-of-age story, conjoined twins Clara and Hailey struggle with some normal and not-so-normal teen issues. The teen years are about separating from your parents and becoming your own person, and Gemini examines what that means for twins who are physically joined together. Author Sonya Mukherjee delves into the emotional connection between Hailey and Clara, and they mature over the course of the story from being self-focused to wanting what's best for each other. The girls are presented as having contrasting personalities: Clara dulls herself, feeling that they stand out enough as it is, while Hailey sports bright pink hair and a tattoo. Even though the story is told through alternating points of view, the twins' voices aren't distinct enough on the page, and it is sometimes hard to tell whose chapter is whose.
The format is formulaic, with the girls struggling with dating, feeling like outsiders, and not knowing what they want to do after high school, but the added complication of being conjoined twins heightens the emotional and logistical aspects of these teen issues. This proves especially true when dealing with their parents. It is hard not to sympathize with the worry and fear that consumes their mom, even if she goes overboard in protecting them. Clara and Hailey are engaging, smart characters and fun to hang out with over the course the book. The other characters are one-dimensional. One storyline that at first seemed to be a major plot point gets dropped completely about three-quarters of the way through. Aside from these minor issues, the book is a sweet, uplifting read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Gemini deals with the issue of putting your life on social media. The twins' parents think the girls should stay out of the public eye. Do you think teens with special issues can destigmatize their conditions by sharing with others?
Some kids want to be like everyone else, while others try hard to stand out. Do you try to hide what makes you different? Do you work hard to make sure people know you're not like everyone else? Is there a downside to trying too hard to be one way or the other?
Do you have interests you want to pursue, such as science or art? What about your interests speaks to you? Is it something you want to do as a career, or is it more of an escape for you?
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