Thursday, May 12, 2016

Book Review: Identical by Ellen Hopkins

IdenticalGreetings readers! Only two more days until TBF!

I've been reading Ellen Hopkins' Identical and let me just preface it with this: it is intense. For those of you familiar with Ellen Hopkins, this shouldn't be a surprise; she tackles a lot of dark issues afflicting teens and their families and Identical is no exception. The one difference is that the issue that she's tackling isn't apparent for some time into the book. I won't spoil it for you though, that's not what I'm here to do. I just want to warn you that if you aren't familiar with Ellen Hopkins and the themes she tackles but want to read her books, I would probably recommend a different book of hers to you first, Burned, before you dive into the intensity of Identical or other books. It's still deals with serious issues, but is a touch tamer than most of her other books (I actually started Burned and that's how I got into her other books).

Now that I've finished that little caveat, on to Identical!

Written in free verse like Hopkins' other books, Identical is filled with first person snippets and poems from the point of view of Kaeleigh and Raeanne, twin daughters of a local judge and a politician. On the outside they're an ideal family, but each family member holds trauma and secrets. Their mother is on the campaign trail, and while she's away, their father smothers Kaeleigh in misdirected love. Raeanne wants nothing more than that attention from her father, but when she doesn't get it, she turns to drugs and sex to cope. Both twins are on a downward spiral but their differences drive them apart more than their kinship brings them together. Their facades need to come down for them to really live, but who is going to step up to change themselves and make up with the other?

As I mentioned before, this is something right up Ellen Hopkins' alley of controversial, deep and dark, and the verse fits so well with the themes she's trying to express. The free verse and the poems allow for a lot of texture and visual aspects that only further the story and the emotion that goes along with each excerpt, even hinting at other things between the words. And Kaeleigh and Raeanne represent different ways that dysfunction manifests in people and how different people internalize or act on their pain.

Raw, painful, and tragic, this book is definitely for anyone who has read and enjoyed Ellen Hopkins in the past. She perfectly captures the emotional depth required to convey the situation of Kaeleigh and Raeanne. Just keep in mind the book is meant for ages 14 and up, and if you're new to Ellen Hopkins, I would still recommend Burned first. And since they're both written in verse, I bet an avid reader could read both before the festival ;)

Happy reading! See you all at TBF this weekend!


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