I’ve reviewed Crossan’s work before – the first book of hers I read was Breathe, a YA dystopian-future novel. In that post, I mentioned this book, which has made a huge splash in the YA world, and won the Carnegie prize… so it was a perfect candidate for holiday read number five!
One is, interestingly, written in free-form poetry format. It’s a really interesting structure for a novel – not one towards which I would have immediately gravitated – and I was very keen to see how it would work. Firstly, it obviously made the whole speed-reading thing even more prominent! I finished this within a couple of hours, so it’s a nice morsel for a voracious reader like me, or a great book for someone who may read a little slower or struggle to concentrate through long sections of prose. Someone else whose comments I read (I’ve forgotten who, I’m so sorry!) also made the point that as poetry, the book enables the reader to dip in and out once you have read the whole thing once – there are certain passages I will love going back to for their poignancy and beauty of language and meaning, without necessarily reading the whole story again.
It’s written from the point of view of Grace, one of a pair of twins who are joined (literally) at the hip. I hadn’t read much about conjoined twins before, so this is a completely other world for me – and having written so passionately in my post on Fangirl and That Girl From Nowhere about the vital importance of diversity in representation, and how crucial it is for readers to be able to see themselves (or at least facets of themselves) in the world of literature; I’m going to expand my soapbox to include otherness in representation, too. There are not many conjoined twins in the world, and according to this book (fiction, but based on in-depth research which is cited in the afterword) even fewer who make it as far as their seventeenth birthdays. However, as I wrote about in my post on Me Before You, empathy is (I believe) the vital ingredient in the ongoing future of the human race, and (I also believe) storytelling is one of the best ways to develop this skill. Not only in developing children, but in adults, as well. I loved reading the thoughts of this girl whose life could have been so similar, but is in fact so different from my own. I loved trying to put myself in her shoes – how would I feel if every waking moment was shared with my sister – not just every waking moment, but half of my body as well? How would I feel if I had never known any different? Would I miss solitude if I had never known it? Would I resent my sister, or need her? Acknowledging that Grace is not real, I also loved reading about the research the author had done for the book, and learning a little more about some famous conjoined twins who were – and are – real. Empathy. Like a muscle, it gets stronger with exercise, folks!
Just to give you fair warning, this is another weepy one – do read this with the Kleenex to hand! – but do read it. It won’t take you long, and it’s well worth it, for the writing and for the content.