Thursday, April 11, 2013

Identical by Ellen Hopkins


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?" - taken from Goodreads

                        I don’t want to write this review really, because it’s going to be damn hard. Identical is so focused, that to discuss the book could so easily spoil it. If I’m more vague than usual, please excuse me. Sometimes you just can’t help it. Also, this week I’ll be trying a slightly different format. My conclusion will be at the beginning, my rants after that. If it works out, I’ll move over to this format, so if you don’t want to read my rants, you won’t have to.
                        In classic Ellen Hopkins style, Identical focuses on its characters as they struggle against real issues. Breaking away from Ellen Hopkins’ tendency to explore consequences, Identical looks at the effects sexual abuse has on the psyche. With the poetry used to visualize the emotion, Identical becomes an intense story that can equally shock and sadden.
                        From the honest story to shock ending, if you are a fan of Ellen Hopkins, you’ll love Identical, and if you’ve never been exposed to the wonder that is Ellen Hopkins, Identical is the perfect book to do just that.
                        Sexual abuse is tough to hear about on the news, but to read a novel on it? It’s hard. The simple physical act of it is horrific, but to see it through the character’s eyes, to hear her thoughts on it? It becomes overwhelming. Moments where you don’t want to turn the page, don’t want to know what is happening, but have to, are frequent. Emotions are stretched to the breaking point.
                        On top of the abuse, the book explores a range of other topics, all stemming from the sexual abuse. Bulimia, coping mechanisms, dysfunctional families. Even after you turn that last page, read the last stanza, you are still experiencing the book. It’s been several days since I’ve finished, and my thoughts keep returning to Identical, and its ending.
                        Anybody who’s ever read a book by Ellen Hopkins knows what I’m talking about when I say they end with a bang. A sharp, sudden climax that gives you no time to collect yourself afterwards. It’s the only element of her stories that I ever question. I prefer a lot of follow up after the climax and conclusion. Ideally, epilogues should have epilogues. Unfortunately, Identical doesn’t just end with a bang, but a twist, which makes me doubly wary of it. Then there’s the fact that I saw the twist coming, but discounted it, because I  thought it would be too outrageous. Psychologically, I don’t know how sound the ending is, but as a reader, I wasn’t quite satisfied. It was the single scratch on the otherwise perfect porcelain, the flaw that your eyes inadvertently fall upon.
                        I’m no expert on poetry. In fact, I am the last person you want to look to for poetry critiques, but this is a novel written in verse so I do need to try.  Dropping the usual conventions we associate with poetry, Ellen Hopkins turns words into a piece of art. Placement, shape, and spacing are used to highlight emotion, or to thread another meaning through the words. The best way to explain it is to just show an example.
Sorry for the quality! iPads are not great cameras, so I had to make it giant. Otherwise it was like reading the fine print on a TV ad.

                        It’s not a poem in the traditional sense, or what I’ve been taught is a poem, but isn’t standard prose either. Not by any means. Some pages feature a more standard stanza format, while others take a more artistic approach, like the example shown. Out of all the books I’ve read by Ellen Hopkins, the poetry in Identical is probably my favorite, and used to the greatest effect.
                        While writing this, I’ve debated about returning to the issue of censorship and Ellen Hopkins’s role in it, but in the end I’ve already said my piece on it in the Impulse review, and am planning an entire series devoted to covering banned books. Since a lot of this review is already reiteration, I decided against it. Feel free to go and read my little rant on it, or you can patiently wait for my series on censorship.
                        Guess that’s all… With the summary of feelings being at the beginning, I have no clue how to end this. Tell you what; how about you scroll back up, read my summary, pretend it was down here, and then comment, telling me how great I am at solving problems.


  1. A book written in verse seems attractive but isn't it difficult and confusing as well

    1. First off, is that a picture of Rukia?

      Second, the poetry is so close to standard prose that it's more like using a new muscle. A little awkwardness at first, you stumble here or there, but pretty soon you are flying.

  2. yeah, it is!

    Well, I've never read a book written in verse. I'll be looking out for this one. oh and you're great at solving problems.

    1. I need to go back and watch some episodes of Bleach. There are some truly fantastic moments there.

      I'd recommend anything by Ellen Hopkins. Crank and Glass are the stand out books for me, Tricks is fantastic also. If you ever have an opportunity to read Ellen Hopkins, I'd suggest you at least try it out.

      Thanks! :P

  3. Great review, Nobs! I've read Impulse and will be starting Crank soon. If I like it as much as everyone else seems to, I'm bound to read Identical before long. I have this need to read every book by an author I love lol.

    I think the poetry aspect of her writing makes her stand out and, as you said, gives her words more weight and power. Ellen Hopkins is most definitely a writer more parents/teachers need to expose their teenaged kids to.

    1. As of yet, Ellen Hopkins has not disappointed me! Well, Fallout didn't hold under the weight of Crank and Glass, but it was good nonetheless. Glad to see the infection has started... The Hopkinosis? Ellesianitis? I quite like Ellesianitis actually.

      The poetry is another tool to express ideas, whereas prose is a mere vehicle to deliver the ideas. The difference in experience is quite great. Helps that the ideas she expresses are so worthy of being expressed.

      Also, why did you not heed my command and compliment my brilliance? What good is a reader base if they don't shower me in compliments?

  4. I dont understand how this book works. i was NOT expecting the ending so i didnt look out for clues while i was reading. but how is it possible that they are 1 person if on page 471-
    when Kaileigh is in her state of mind where she thinks she is Reanne, ian says, "youre not kaileigh???" it doesnt make sense!!