Book Review: Identical

This book is not for the faint of heart. Identical is disturbing. It features heartwarming topics such as sexual abuse, incest, underage drinking, drugs, bulimia, self-harming… yeah. As much as I love to get lost in books, I know — unless they’re based on a true story (a TRUE story, like legit true crime novels, not something fake that anyone with half a brain knows is complete bullshit…/eye twitch) — it is a work of FICTION, i.e. a work of genius birthed from someone’s creativity. I know that some people simply cannot reading heavy books about pedophiles, incest, drug abuse, etc, whether it’s too disturbing or because it hits too close to home… if you’re like this, Identical is NOT for you. This is an edgy book.


**contains some spoilers!!**

Cover for Identical

“Do twins begin in the womb?
Or in a better place?

Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical down to the dimple. As daughters of a district-court judge father and a politician mother, they are an all-American family — on the surface. Behind the facade each sister has her own dark secret, and that’s where their differences begin.

For Kaeleigh, she’s the misplaced focus of Daddy’s love, intended for a mother whose presence on the campaign trail means absence at home. All that Raeanne sees is Daddy playing a game of favorites — and she is losing. If she has to lose, she will do it on her own terms, so she chooses drugs, alcohol, and sex.

Secrets like the ones the twins are harboring are not meant to be kept — from each other or anyone else. Pretty soon it’s obvious that neither sister can handle it alone, and one sister must step up to save the other, but the question is — who?”

/skip to general information1, more thoughts2, grading3, or final impression4.

I have really mixed feelings on this book. On one hand, I wasn’t expecting a lot from this book… on the other hand, while reading, I learned to reel back my expectations, and thought it’d end up being an average read. On the other other hand (lolwut) I admit that the twist ending was great. Yes, twist ending. There’s a twist ending. This is the “some spoilers” kicking in.

Half of me thinks that these “poems” are totally amazing, but the other half of me thinks that they’re not THAT special… yeah. I don’t know. I love how the poems are so raw with such a simple vocabulary, but the gimmicky “mirror” poems (where Kaeleigh/Raeanne transition into the other’s POV) feel like the poems were written around the “sentences”. (You’ll know what I mean if you checked out the book!) Those were my favorite types of poems in Crank, but, while the whole “mirror” gimmick is cool in theory, they really look forced to me. I suggest reading one twin’s poem without paying attention to the sentence formed by the words on the side, read the other’s poem, THEN read the sentence.

If I didn’t make this clear, this book is seriously disturbing. If you have a tendency of letting fantasy blur into reality (like being religious [/brick’d] or being super gullible like my sister [who believes every conspiracy theory, follows fads, believes everything that comes out of the mouths of celebrities she likes…]) and you’re still reading my review for some reason… don’t read Identical. Please. This book is a melting pot of teen vices… LOTS of drugs, mixing drugs with strong liquor, sooo much alcohol (“Wild Turkey”…), bulimia (both Kaeleigh and Raeanne… cleaning up Kaeleigh’s orange “macaroni and cheese” puke… ewww!), binge eating (from Kaeleigh as well, because she actually wants to gain weight), cutting (Kaeleigh purposely trying to cut herself shaving), sexual abuse (her father… WTF! EWWW!!)

Okay… by now, I should have scared off everyone who didn’t want spoilers. So here’s the biggest spoiler. The twist ending I mentioned. It totally answers a lot of my questions, like… why don’t Kaeleigh and Raeanne interact if they’re twins, even though they’ve drifted apart? Why doesn’t Raeanne have a job too?

1. general information

name: Identical
author: Ellen Hopkins
number in series: 1 (standalone)
genre: young adult (edgy, verse novel)
narrative point of view: first person.
narrative tense: present tense.

2. more thoughts

readability: Despite being in present tense (squick!), Identical‘s readability is excellent, thanks to the super-short poem-style format. You’re either going to think this kind of verse novel is a work of genius or an obscene waste of paper (which my sister joked about). The book looks huge, but it isn’t. Identical is divided by poems rather than chapters, which are usually only one page long. You always want to read just one more page, okay one more, one last page, this is the last one I swear… and instead of reading the 10 pages you thought, you end up reading 100 in one sitting. Kept happening to me.

what I enjoyed: Great voice. Very convincing. Sounds like the poems are really written by these characters. The twist ending was nuts… for some reason, I hadn’t seen it coming.

what I disliked:  Really extravagant. I mean, Identical tries to cover EVERY base. I assumed the characters might’ve used drugs (hey, I read Crank), but that’s not all… yeah, Kaeleigh and Raeanne are seriously messed up. It was like curve ball after curve ball, and in the end, I… just felt shocked. I’m not really entitled to complain about this, as I bought the book knowing it was written in present tense (and it’s actually not as bad as in other books because there isn’t much dialogue), but it’s always frustrating, no matter how masterfully it’s executed…

hooked on the series: The book itself was good, but the ending didn’t really set up for a sequel. As much as  enjoyed Identical, I wouldn’t read a sequel. It makes a great standalone, though.

recommended for: Teens who like edgy fiction. People who won’t be scarred by edgy fiction. Anyone who can handle edgy fiction.

not recommended for: Any too-innocent kids. If you’re super sensitive and have eating disorder problems or something, I’d stay the hell away from Ellen Hopkins. Her stuff is interesting, but very gritty.

3. grading

premise: Totally identical twins, with one of them being their father’s “favorite” rather than the other? Sounds cool. Actually, I was hooked by the concept of twins. I love twins. Maybe that’s why I used to be obsessed with everything Mary-Kate and Ashley. Twins are cool. 8/10

characters: This is one of the books that I like while hating the characters. I wanted to love the evil father (I have a soft spot for villains!) but he was just… holy shit. He’s fucking awful! Like, no redeeming qualities. As much of a necessary character he was, I hated reading about him. Everytime he came up, I wanted to close the book and stop reading for a few days. Kaeleigh bounced between being a total pushover and someone totally insane! I didn’t like reading her parts. I liked Raeanne’s parts better. As fucked up as she was, at least she was (sort of) able to stay grounded. In the end, I forgive Kaeleigh for being so lame while Raeanne was cool. 6.5/10.

plot:  If I had to give Identical a plot, I’d call it “two girls who make terrible decisions until they teeter on the edge of death” (idc if that’s not actually a plot!), but the twist ending is fucking great. It answered a lot of my questions that, ironically, made me hate the book while reading it. As much as I questioned it, I never expected this revelation. I bow down to Ellen Hopkins. The twist ending jacks up the rating I would’ve otherwise given here. 9/10.

writing style: This is a verse novel. As expected, there is a lot of description, as there isn’t much dialogue. At some times the writing is rather “meh”, but sometimes it’s fascinating, and I would never be able to replicate it (“Madison wears “smug” like sunblock, greasing her face to an oily gleam.”) Identical has a lot of great voice. I’m wondering if Ellen Hopkins is simply exceptional at thinking like teenagers, or she’s totally off her rocker! (Kidding. I’m guessing she uses a combination of experience–like how Crank was inspired by her daughter– research, and creativity. Well, that doesn’t rule out the possibility of her being crazy, but let’s give her the benefit of a doubt!) 9/10.

OVERAL GRADE (not an average): 8.5/10.

4. final impression…

It’s not perfect, but it’s a great read. I don’t regret purchasing and reading it, which is a lot more than I can say for some of the books I’ve recently read. I recommend Ellen Hopkins to people who like edgy (to the point of being disturbing) fiction, but her work is definitely not for the faint of heart!


About lily.

My life revolves around writing and enough geeky hobbies to annoy my parents.

Posted on 04/10/2012, in Book Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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