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Book Review

One by Sarah Crossan has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting [magazine] (https://store.focusonthefamily.com/goaa-thriving "magazine").

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Grace and Tippi are 16-year-old conjoined twins. They have two heads, two hearts, two sets of lungs and kidneys and four arms. Their intestines begin apart and then merge, and below that, they are one, sharing one pair of legs.

They live with their mother, father, 14-year-old sister nicknamed Dragon and their grandmother. Tippi and Grace have been home-schooled for their entire lives, but with financial donations running out and their father unemployed, they must start attending traditional school. The city pays for the girls to attend a private high school, Hornbeacon High.

Both Grace and Tippi are nervous about attending school, as strangers have been cruel to them. Just before school starts, the girls catch the flu. While Tippi recovers quickly, Grace has a harder time getting better.

When the twins start school at Hornbeacon, another student, Yasmeen, is assigned to be their guide and friend. Yasmeen thinks Grace and Tippi are amazing and doesn’t become sickened when she sees them. In their first class, Grace is fearful of being stared at. Yasmeen, despite her small stature, defends the twins with curses and threats to anyone who gives them odd looks.

In art class, they meet Yasmeen’s friend, Jon, who treats the twins like they are two people. Instead of going to study hall, Jon and Yasmeen take the twins to an abandoned church in the woods behind the school to smoke. By the end of the first day, Grace thinks that she and Tippi may have found friends.

While getting ready for the second day of school, Grace passes out while brushing her teeth, but she lies to Tippi and her family and tells them that she slipped. At school, they find an offensive note taped to their locker, telling them to go back to the zoo. Grace feels the reality of their situation has arrived — that the other students will never accept them.

Yasmeen tells the twins that the students are afraid of them, just like they are afraid of her. Yasmeen has HIV. As the girls spend more time with Jon and Yasmeen, Grace develops a crush on Jon.

One morning at school, Grace and Tippi overhear Jon telling Yasmeen that the twins’ situation is unfortunate and a waste because they are so pretty. Both girls are angry, and while Grace wants Jon to explain what he means, Tippi drags her away. Yasmeen and Jon apologize, but the twins stay angry with them for a while. Eventually, Grace and Tippi go back to the abandoned church to drink, smoke and hang out with their friends.

Grace becomes more out of breath while doing physical activates. She continues to lie to her family, but Tippi knows something isn’t right. While Grace eats sparingly, Tippi is the one losing weight. Additionally, the twins worry over their family’s finances.

Dragon starts teaching younger ballet students in order to pay for her own studio time, and the twins are angry that their little sister must work. Dragon’s ballet studio is also planning a six-week trip to Russia, but Dragon cannot go because all the family’s spare money is spent on the twins’ healthcare. Grace wants her sister to reconsider paid offers to appear on television, but Tippi refuses, insisting that they keep their dignity.

When their mother loses her job, the family’s financial situation becomes dire. Faced with the possibility of selling their apartment and moving, Tippi relents and agrees to let a documentary filmmaker, Caroline, follow their lives for several months. With the $50,000 they earn, the twins pay for Dragon’s dance trip to Russia, providing their sister with a way out of the invasive filming of their family’s lives.

While their dad tries to avoid the cameras, he fails, and it’s easy for everyone to see that he is drunk. After their dad has an argument with their mom, the couple decides that it’s best for him to move out until after filming is complete.

After a few weeks, the twins become accustomed to being filmed. When Tippi loses consciousness and falls on school grounds, the camera crew reacts immediately and calls the ambulance. The doctor tells the family that when the twins caught the flu, the virus severely weakened Grace’s heart, and Tippi’s heart has been strained with the task of supporting both bodies. For the girls to survive, they must be separated and Grace needs a heart transplant.

If they remain conjoined, they will both die. Grace blames herself and her heart for quietly killing her sister, so she agrees to the surgery. Their parents are terrified of losing either daughter, but they let the girls decide.

Caroline doesn’t try to film the girls in the weeks following their diagnosis, proving that she isn’t after a sensational story. When she does ask to start filming again, Tippi and Grace agree, knowing this may be documentation of the final months of their lives.

Against their mother’s wishes, the twins go with Jon and Yasmeen for a weekend away during winter break. Tippi and Grace bring alcohol from their newly sober father’s stash. At the vacation house, Jon and Yasmeen push together two beds to make a sleeping space large enough for the four of them. Yasmeen sleeps beside Tippi while Jon sleeps beside Grace. They spend the days drinking, smoking cigars and skinny-dipping in a neighbor’s pool. At night, Jon and Grace kiss.

After Christmas, the twins get ready for the separation by undergoing a painful surgery to put in skin expanders. By January, the girls are ready for the separation surgery. They say sad goodbyes to loved ones and to each other. The girls are kept unconscious for a week after the surgery to spare them much of the pain.

Grace wakes up to learn that she has done well and is on the list for a heart transplant, but Tippi lost a lot of blood and has an infection. Grace begs to see Tippi. When Grace sees how sick she is, she tells Tippi that it is OK for her to die, and Tippi does.

Grace’s grief over Tippi’s death is so intense, it causes her physical pain. Grace’s recovery is slow, and she remains in the hospital, waiting for a donor heart. Caroline interviews her and Grace acknowledges that while Tippi was always good at being heard, Grace has hidden herself from the world for too long. She has been a coward, and now it’s time to tell her story of what it’s like to be two and to be one.

Christian Beliefs

Tippi sees a beautiful sunrise and remarks that it makes her want to believe in God, and Yasmeen agrees. When the girls make funeral plans with Yasmeen, Grace says she doesn’t want hymns or anything holy there. God is not invited to her funeral.

Other Belief Systems

When the girls were 4 months old, their mother took them to a vicar for baptism, but the man was unsure if he could baptize them separately. The family never went back to church again. Behind the school is an abandoned church where Jon and Yasmeen invite the twins to drink and smoke cigarettes with them. When first asked to go, the girls misunderstand, thinking they are being taken to an actual church and tell Jon that church isn’t their thing.

Authority Roles

The twins’ mother loves her daughters and constantly worries about their health and welfare. Even though the family is strapped for money and she works extra hours, she does not cut back on the twins’ healthcare needs.

Their dad has been laid off from his job and isn’t successful in getting another. He frequently drinks and lashes out in anger at his wife and children. The girls see that their father is always drunk and try to be perfect to keep him happy, but acknowledge that it doesn’t work. He moves out of the house after he admits that he cannot give up the alcohol. After Grace and Tippi are hospitalized, he quickly sobers, moves back into their home and provides emotional support.

Yasmeen’s mother, unaware she had HIV, infected Yasmeen through breastmilk. Jon’s stepfather, Cal, stayed after Jon’s mother left. He helped Jon get a scholarship to Hornbeacon, pays for Jon’s train tickets and lunch and has promised to stay until Jon goes to college.

Profanity/Violence

Profanity includes: the f-word, s---, a--hole, h--- and d--n. Name-calling includes b--ch and b--tard. God's name is used with d--n, oh my and forbid. Grace and Tippi have been called freaks, fiends, monsters, mutants and a two-headed demon.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Grace and Tippi are asked invasive, personal questions, such as how many vaginas they have and if it’s weird to see each other naked. Dragon, the twins’ 14-year-old sister, has a boyfriend who she says is trying to have sex with her. The twins are compared to another set of beautiful conjoined twins, Daisy and Violet Hilton. Grace thinks the only thing the Hiltons ever got for their looks were a few slimy suitors hoping to bed them both.

Tippi has a crush on one of the cameramen, Paul, but she never tells him or acts on it. Grace develops romantic feelings for Jon. She relishes borrowing books from him to touch the same pages and read the same words as he does. She drinks alcohol from the same flask he uses so her lips can touch the same spot his did.

Tippi tells Grace that they can do anything together, except fall in love, but the warning comes too late. The twins write bucket lists for themselves. Grace’s list includes kissing a boy.

On her 17th birthday, Yasmeen says she might have sex to celebrate. Instead of a party, the twins lie to their mother that Yasmeen is having a sleep over. Then all four teens camp out at the abandoned church. They drink, and Grace flirts with Jon.

Grammie goes on a date, and Grace can’t believe her grandmother is luckier in love than she is. After their mother loses her job, Grace thinks that if she had a gun and no conscience, she could rob a bank, steal cars, sell drugs or pimp out girls. The twins go away for the weekend with Jon and Yasmeen. Jon sleeps beside Grace and they kiss.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Tippi, Grace, Yasmeen and Jon eat hash brownies, drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes/cigars. The twins’ dad drinks alcohol and gets drunk regularly. Dragon is anorexic.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

16 and up

Author

Sarah Crossan

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Greenwillow Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Released

On Video

Year Published

2015

Awards

Carnegie Medal, 2016

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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