I received an advanced copy of this book from Simon & Schuster Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not change how I feel about this book.
Title: Gemini by Sonya Mukherjee
Release date: July 26th, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Verdict: 4.5 stars.
In a powerful and daring debut novel, Sonya Mukherjee shares the story of sisters Clara and Hailey, conjoined twins who are learning what it means to be truly extraordinary.
Seventeen-year-old conjoined twins Clara and Hailey have lived in the same small town their entire lives—no one stares at them anymore. But there are cracks in their quiet existence, and they’re slowly becoming more apparent. Clara and Hailey are at a crossroads. Clara wants to stay close to home, avoid all attention, and study the night sky. Hailey wants to travel the world, learn from great artists, and dance with mysterious boys. As high school graduation approaches, each twin must untangle her dreams from her sister’s, and figure out what it means to be her own person.
Told in alternating perspectives, this unconventional coming-of-age tale shows how dreams can break your heart—but the love between sisters can mend it.
Even though I really enjoyed this book, I’m having a hard time thinking of what to say about it. Mukherjee’s debut novel is nothing like anything I’ve ever read before, and for a coming-of-age story, it is remarkably unique. I was initially worried that Clara & Hailey’s conjoined bodies would be the butt of jokes or something to ridicule for the sake of the plot, and I am really, really happy that it never came to that. Mukherjee tackles the issue of discrimination and ridicule in a complex and compassionate way: the whole reason they’ve lived in this one small town all their lives is because of how their parents – especially their mother – worry Clara & Hailey will be seen by “the outside world.” Unsurprisingly, Clara and Hailey are both completely average teenagers, preparing for college, dating boys, and dreaming about the future, and the outside world doesn’t seem so scary any more compared to spending the rest of their lives stuck in a box for the perceived benefit of others.
By the end of the novel, it’s not just Clara and Hailey who have ‘come of age’ in terms of growing up, but their parents had some excellent character development as well. I don’t think a lot of coming of age tales give this much time to the parent-child relationship part of growing up. It’s hard to watch your child leave the nest for a bigger, brighter future, and I can only imagine that it’s twice as terrifying when you know you can’t protect your kids from the judgement of others based on how they look. But at the same time…you can’t hold your kids back, either, because eventually protecting them becomes cooping them up like a caged bird. Part of why this story works so well is because it strongly supports letting Clara and Hailey decide their futures for themselves. It refuses to fall back on fear, and sends a huge message of courage to embrace yourself, all parts of yourself – a message that anyone can relate to and sympathize with. Poignant and powerful, this novel is a game changer that still follows the simple pattern of contemporary coming of age while managing to remain a unique delight to experience.