*Spoiler alert: plot line revealed*
Although Ellen Hopkins, the author of Identical, is clearly not a teenager, she channels the voice of one so artfully that it almost feels like you’re reading a high school diary.
The stars of this novel, Kaeleigh and Raeanne, are sixteen year old identical twins.
The narrative explains that their childhood seemed to be a happy one until their father, Ray (a district court judge) drove drunk and crashed their car with the entire family inside. Their mother, Kay, was never the same. She became absent and aloof, burying herself in a political career.
Kaeleigh strives to be a good girl, but harbors a terrible secret; her father sexually abuses her. She copes by cutting and binge eating.
Meanwhile, Raeanne watches as Kaeleigh’s abuse unfolds, developing self-destructive habits of her own: drugs, promiscuity, bulimia, and alcohol abuse.
The novel takes an unexpected turn when it’s revealed that Kaeleigh and Raeanne are actually the same person. Kaeleigh developed split personality disorder, adopting the persona of “Raeanne” to express her bad-girl inclinations. The real Raeanne had died in their father’s car accident.
This book is gritty and not for the faint of heart. I almost stopped reading because of how painful it was to read about the father’s sexual abuse of his own daughter. The cutting scenes were also so graphic that I had to skip over them.
Sometimes, the verse felt overly melodramatic, but I can’t hold that against the book, since it was told through the melodramatic eyes of a teenager.
A raw and compelling read.
In three words: raw, gritty, compelling