Caroline’s Choice June 2016: One by Sarah Crossan

Following Crossan’s recent success with her newest book One, in winning the YA Book Prize, I felt that this had to be the choice for this month’s review.

One is the story of conjoined 16-year old twins Grace and Tippi, who have survived against the odds to face the trials of teendom in the micro-society that is school.  With two separate bodies, they are joined from the waist-downwards with one pair of legs and Crossan doesn’t shy away from writing about this with exquisite frankness and realism.

The first thing that strikes you is the writing.  It is clean, sharp and direct and for a lot of readers, like nothing you’ve read before.  Writing in free verse, the story’s poetic resonance helps to convey the intensity of emotion experienced by Grace and Tippi, not only as conjoined twins, but as teenagers developing new relationships.

It feels like you’re reading Grace’s diary and this book has captured just a snapshot of her reality, which commends the level of research Crossan has undertaken.  Once you’ve embraced the writing style, you become completely immersed in their lives, their views and the how they stand the constant scrutiny outside home.  Then, there’s the silent decay at home characterised by their sibling Dragon and the relationship between their parents.  No-one speaks of it as such, but it’s present like a silent, giant elephant.

Whilst this is a quick read, it creates a dramatic impact with the reader.  As Peter Florence, judge and director of Hay Festival, said: “We’ve got a book that breaks every rule and would enthral any reader; a book that gives you the gift of reading in a new way and loving every page.”* You hang onto hope that the girls will experience love despite the difficult odds and you marvel at their unerring courage throughout.  You relate to their new friends Yasmeen and Jon and how feels to be the new kid at school.  You become fearful when Grace faints…and you hold your breath as things reach crisis point when it is Tippi that collapses.  I felt a rollercoaster of emotions from happiness, disgust, anger, nostalgic remembrance of the first fumbling steps of love and utter sadness.  

I was left with a feeling of deep admiration and some scrap of understanding for those people like Grace and Tippi for whom this is their everyday.  As I write this some time on from reading the book, I can still recall certain lines and passages with such vivid emotion that brings tears to my eyes.

This is what awaits you when you get your copy of One – the chance to be immersed in someone else’s life so completely for a time, that you miss them when you re-surface at the end gulping for air, and they’re gone.  

I would urge anyone to do more than read the press and blogger reviews like this, and actually buy it and read it.  It reaches into your soul and leaves an indelible mark.

*sourced from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-36434302

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