Sunday, September 21, 2008

Identical by Ellen Hopkins

Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical twins, mirror images of each other. They share a terrible secret.

Kaeleigh is the good girl--she does well in school and has a lead role in the school musical. Ian, her sort-of boyfriend, loves her deeply. Her father loves her too, but not the way a father should.

Raeanne knows about her father's visits to Kaeleigh's bed. While a part of her wants to protect Kaeleigh, another part of her feels jealous because her father didn't pick her. She breaks rules at every turn, skipping school, getting high, and having all kinds of sex.

The family was normal until the night of the accident, when their father, a judge, caused a fatal accident while driving drunk. Their mother responded by throwing herself into her political career and freezing out her family. Their parents are still married, but the marriage is in name only.

Their father, lonely and tortured by his own terrible secret, drinks to escape his demons. And he sexually abuses Kaeleigh.

I loved the format of the novel. The poems were beautifully written and the shapes, especially of the mirrored ones, made me slow down and savor the structure.

The treatment of Raeanne's drug use made me a bit uncomfortable, mostly because the negative aspects were downplayed. In Crank, which details a girl's downward spiral into addiction, her drug use is also graphic and descriptive, but the reader could clearly see the path of destruction.

I would have liked to have read more about Kaeleigh's relationship with her father and also about the events in his childhood that set him on the path of the abuser. Also, the twist at the end would have felt more authentic if it hadn't happened so close to the end of the book. I wanted to know more about what happened AFTER Kaeleigh faced the truth.

While this was not my favorite Hopkins novel, teen fans will not be able to put it down. It is chock full of issues and mature content. It's all in here--sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, cutting, mental illness, bad boys, and, like Pandora's box, a small taste of hope and love.

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