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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sarah Crossan's One is an arresting free-verse novel about seven months in the lives of conjoined twins Tippi and Grace. The girls have been homeschooled their whole lives, but a family financial crisis means they need to start attending a high school. The twins are not depicted as freaks or played for shock value. In fact, they're smart, compassionate, interesting characters, facing many troubles other teens do, with the added complication of being conjoined twins. Teens smoke cigarettes and drink on a few occasions and eat hash brownies once. Two characters kiss and cuddle, but that's about it for sex. Profanity is infrequent (includes "s--t" and its variations, "f--k" and its variations, and "a--hole"). The free-verse style is accessible and could excite readers about storytelling though poetry.
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What's the story?
Tippi and Grace are unusual twins, in that they're conjoined and have survived for 16 years. The two love each other deeply and don’t yearn to be separated, except for when the usual annoyances crop up, such as one wanting to get up when the other is asleep. They know their bodies might not be able to sustain them both forever, but even so, they wouldn't trade their life together for anything. ONE begins with the girls learning they can no longer be homeschooled and will be enrolling in a new school soon. In addition to dealing with their medical condition and possible complications, the girls are faced with learning to navigate a new school, making friends, their dad's drinking, their family's dire financial situation, and other issues. The story is written in free verse and told from Grace's point of view. She relates how their medical condition looms over the family, causing some family members' needs to get lost in the shuffle, which makes the twins feel guilty. Even though they've been joined at the waist all their lives, Grace and Tippi are of different minds. And as the school year goes on, the two must grapple with some crucial, life-altering decisions.
Is it any good?
This lyrical, moving story of conjoined twins is told in free verse and packs a surprising emotional punch. The storytelling style adds to rather than detracts from the plot and character development. Tippi and Grace take on typical teen issues, but these issues are magnified because of their medical condition. Author Sarah Crossan successfully strikes a balance between keeping the story light when needed and not veering too far into pathos and melodrama when the story takes more serious turns. Sometimes the twins' problems are amusing; for example, Tippi likes coffee and Grace doesn't, but she still has to deal with the buzz. Other concerns that are serious enough for regular teens are harder on them, such as dating, making choices about drinking and smoking, and making some important medical decisions.
They also grapple with a fair bit of guilt over their family's money troubles, their parents' problems, and their younger sister often getting ignored. Their feelings about these problems are deep and often heartrending. This could have been a cloying or shock-driven novel, but it's not. Tippi and Grace are wonderfully developed, engaging characters, and none of the other characters is one-dimensional. The free-verse approach lets the story flow and adds detail in a beautiful way, offering up snippets that speak volumes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how it feels to be different. 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?
Reality shows that depict the "real lives" of certain groups of people often take a lot of heat. Have you ever learned anything from these shows? What do you think of the people who star in them? What reasons do you think they have for opening up their lives in this way?
When you read a book recommended by someone else, do you feel a connection to that person through the book? What books have you read that you want everyone to read?
- Author: Sarah Crossan
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Greenwillow Books
- Publication date: September 15, 2015
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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