Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: August 2008
Rating: 4.5 stars
Since getting to come home for Christmas break, I’ve been on an Ellen Hopkins binge, due to my lovely roommate lending me a few books. I took a long hiatus from reading, and am glad to be back at home, curled up next to the fire with a book in my hands.
Identical is, I have to say, Hopkins’ best book to date (that I’ve read). I tore through this 560-page book and couldn’t put it down (with the exception of a mandatory family Christmas party; trust me, I would rather have finished my book first). Identical twins Kaeleigh and Raeanne are the children of a district-court judge and a politician. The girls live at home with Daddy, and Mom is never around; she’s out running for a position in Congress. The Gardella family look perfect on the outside, but each member harbors dark secrets – secrets that can never be shared with anyone. As election day draws nearer and nearer, tensions rise and the pressure is on to be the perfect, innocent, all-American family – on-screen and off. What happens when the weight of it all is too much to bear? All of a sudden, the girls start to slip up, and the secrets start to spill out.
I was blown away by this novel. I just finished reading Hopkins’ Crank series, and actually enjoyed this stand-alone more than that whole series. This novel deals with a lot of tough topics: mental illness, abuse, death, drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships, parental issues… the list goes on. A lot of people criticize this book as being “too disturbing” and “painful to read,” and yes, they’re right, it is disturbing and painful, but that’s what makes it so powerful. It’s a YA novel, meant for teens and older, but has been banned in many schools and households for its mature and “disturbing” themes. Personally, I think banning books is the dumbest thing anyone could ever do. This book deals with such traumatic, poignant themes, yes, but it could potentially save someone’s life. Maybe it could give courage, hope, and strength to anyone going through anything mentioned in this book. Yes, it is a disturbing book. It is hard to read without wanting to be sad or angry or disgusted. But the thing is, it happens in everyday life, whether you choose to ignore it or not. This book was so powerful, and although sometimes it hurt to read on, it was worth it.
About halfway through, I made a prediction about the ending, but quickly dismissed it due to evidence in the text. However, to my great joy (or sadness, whichever way you want to look at it), my prediction was right, and it ended similarly to how I thought it would. Throughout the book, I kept rooting for the twins, especially Kaeleigh. I was hoping with all my heart she would reach out and get help. I love how a book can alter your emotions and physically pain you. I love how a book can control your feelings while reading. I couldn’t wait to get to the end to see how it turned out. With only 20 pages left, my heart was racing. I was dying to get to the end. After I finished the book, I closed the cover and just sat there. I couldn’t really think or feel anything – I just sat there, taking it all in. That’s when you know you’ve read a good book. And this is definitely one book you’ll desire to read at least one more time, I promise you that.