Untwine

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Untwine Book Poster Image
Poignant, thoughtful tale of teen's loss, grief, recovery.

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Brief facts about and cultural insight into Haiti, including political figures and phrases in Haitian creole and French. Quotes from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Friedrich Nietzsche. Brief mention of Florence Beatrice Price, the first black woman to have her symphony performed by a major orchestra in the United States. Descriptions of famous paintings, especially of Frida Kahlo's Las Dos Fridas. Outline of Russian folk tale that's the basis of Stravinsky's Firebird. Hospital privileges explained. Five stages of grief mentioned.

Positive Messages

Some things are unstoppable and you have no control over them. It's a lot harder to move forward in life than it is to fall back into how things used to be. You just have to know when to let go. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Narrator Giselle and her twin sister, Isabelle, almost 17, are high academic achievers with well-rounded extracurricular interests in arts and sciences. Family and cultural ties to Haiti, where their parents were born, are important; the family rallies around in times of crisis. The twins' parents are loving and supportive of each other and the twins while they struggle with separation. An aunt is a pediatrician and a great model for careers in science and medicine.

Violence

Pain and injuries from a car crash described in literary detail but not graphically. Foster parents selling a foster child to traffickers is mentioned a couple of times; the situation has a safe resolution. A schoolyard shoving match includes a punch.

Sex

Feelings of attraction briefly mentioned.

Language
Consumerism

A small variety of products establish location, mood, or character.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A famous artist's death by overdose mentioned. A passing smoker mentioned. The grandfather steps outside to smoke several times, and the smell of cigarettes is mentioned.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Untwine, by multiple-award-winning and Oprah's Book Club author Edwidge Danticat, is the story of 16-year-old Giselle's journey through grief and recovery after her family is in a car crash. There are lots of good role models, and there's nothing inappropriate for tweens. Most of the novel takes place in a hospital with Giselle unable to move or speak; physical pain and injuries are briefly described but not graphic. Trafficking of foster children is mentioned a couple of times. Themes of loss, recovery, family, and friendship are explored. Ultimately, it's a tale of resilience and recovery that a wide range of ages can appreciate.

User Reviews

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Kid, 10 years old September 2, 2016

*Not For Little Kids*

I just finished it but I don't think it should be in my elementary school's library. Now I'm a MATURE AND GIFTED KID, so yeah. But middle school... Continue reading

What's the story?

Giselle, 16, wakes up in a hospital unable to move or speak. As she drifts in and out of consciousness, she starts to piece together the terrible car crash she was in and is desperate to know what happened to her parents and her twin sister, Isabelle. Physical recovery is only part of the battle, though. While her body heals, she'll have to rely on friends and family to fully understand what happened, UNTWINE, and cope with loss and recovery. How can she possibly go on if she might never be whole again?

Is it any good?

A poignant, at times lyrical exploration of recovery from loss, grief, healing, and the special bond that unites twins. Edwidge Danticat's graceful, gentle prose is compelling. She creates a protagonist to whom mature tweens and teens will relate despite her extraordinary circumstances by exploring universal themes about how family and friendship see us through life's most difficult times.

The mystery of how exactly the crash happened takes a back seat to exploring emotions, but Giselle's journey to recover keeps the pages turning. Danticat also carefully and lovingly evokes the culture and history of Haiti so it feels fresh and interesting without interfering with the overall somber tone. Teens in the mood for a quiet, thoughtful read who can handle the strong themes of loss will enjoy this enriching story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the special bond between siblings, especially twins. Are there any twins in your family? Do they seem to share a bond that's different from any other siblings?

  • Lots of books are written about loss, grief, and recovery. Which others have you read, and how does this one compare?

  • Giselle mentions artists, writers, and composers a lot. Why are they important to her? Look them up online or at the library and see if they match what you pictured based on Giselle's descriptions.

Book details

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