Identical by Ellen Hopkins

identicalKaeleigh 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?

Identical takes on the issue of sexual abuse by a relative. In this case, Kaeleigh is sexually abused by her father while her twin sister, Raeanne, isn’t. Raeanne never tells on her father, especially since her mother is distant {she’s running for Congress} and cold. And the story, written in the same free verse Hopkins used in Crank and Glass, switches from the point of view of Kaeleigh to Raeanne. Of occasionally, if you follow the separate words down the page, the girls come to the same conclusion through different experiences and sometimes they repeat what one another has to say.

“At ten, it isn’t exactly easy to separate good touch from bad touch, proper love from improper love, doting daddy from perv.” (pg. 241)

When I started my review in my head towards the end of Identical, I was all set to complain about how indistinguishable Kaeleigh is from Raeanne and visa versa. The identical twins I know are completely distinguishable – in dress, mannerism, and voice. Raeanna and Kaeleigh are not, and I found myself flipping back and forth, back and forth between the pages to make sure who I thought was speaking was, in fact, speaking.  But then I reached the end and my complaint was explained. At least, to a degree.

(Spoiler Alert! I mean it, because with this book, the less you know going in, the better.)

You see, the ending in unexpected, unexplainable, and completely out there. At the end of the book, you learn that Raeanna actually died in the car accident caused by Ray and Kaeleigh has multiple identities, living through herself and her twin sister to cope with the sexual abuse. Now that I think about it, the book is riddled with clues: Raeanne and Kaeleigh never talk to one another, the accident Ray caused never made any sense, the fact that Madison hits on both girls’ boyfriends, why Ray would choose one daughter over the other when they’re supposed to be identical. But the ending didn’t settle right with me; it felt too much like a copout.

(End spoiler!)

And the fact that, rather than focus on one issue, Hopkins threw in sexual abuse, bondage, teacher-student relationships, parents’ separation, rape, child p*rnography, prostitution, drags, and alcohol abuse. I don’t know if she was trying (too hard} to be “edge” and push the envelop with her novel or if she couldn’t decide which problem to focus on in this novel, but her jam packed novel didn’t settle right with me.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Hopkins, Ellen. Identical. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008. Print. 565 pgs. ISBN: 9781416950059. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Margaret K. McElderry Books. Retrieved: February 20, 2009.

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