One is the story of Grace and Tippi, sixteen year old conjoined twins who have always been homeschooled. Now, though, their parents’ money has run out and they’re being forced into mainstream schooling for the first time. The book tells the story of their foray into school while at the same time dealing with their weakening health, the question of whether they should be medically separated and a home life that seems on the brink of collapse.
Sarah Crossan’s writing is just sublime. I’m not usually one for poetry or poetic prose and certainly not free verse, but in this case it just totally worked. We’re never given huge wads of information about what Tippi and Grace’s lives are like and the stuff that happens to them, but we’re given little windows into their lives, little vignettes, in the most lyrical (yet somehow non-wanky) language. I had a lump in my throat the whole way through, not only with the things the girls had to contend with but also with Grace’s prose. Grace was absolutely the right name for this character - her attitude and forbearance are so graceful and so brave. I honestly felt like she was a real person talking to me. Her thoughts are incredibly finely balanced between wanting to be her own person apart from Tippi and not being able to bear to be separate from her.
And while One is really The Tippi and Grace Show (and it really is a lot like a circus show at times), Sarah Crossan also fleshes out the surrounding characters beautifully. Their sister, Dragon, was especially well written, I thought - she is rarely if ever put in the spotlight despite her extraordinary dancing skills and loves her sisters nonetheless. Yasmeen and Jon are lovely characters too, and both had their own problems. There is some romance in One, but it isn’t without its logistical difficulties, what with Tippi and Grace being conjoined, and Grace has a lot of inner turmoil about the impossibility of falling in love when your twin is literally by your side at all times.
One starts off being about Tippi and Grace’s first time at a mainstream school but quickly becomes more about their declining health and decision on whether or not to separate. Mixed in with this is their family’s precarious financial situation, their decision to allow documentary makers into their lives, alcoholism and eating disorders. Sarah Crossan really isn’t frightened about throwing all sorts of problems at her characters!
To my shame, I’ve never really stopped to consider what life is like for conjoined twins and this book has really made me think. The way Tippi and Grace showed their love for each other and the way they lived their lives determined to stay together yet be their own people was just beautiful .
This was such an awesome book. Wow. Just wow.
One is released on 27th August by Bloomsbury Children’s Books. I received a copy courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley.