One by Sarah Crossan

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One is the story of conjoined twins, Grace and Tippi. Their friendship and sisterhood, their trials and their joys. It’s a beautiful story which has been beautifully written. Every chapter is written and laid out as a free verse poem, and the effect is fantastic.

The narrative is told through the eyes of Grace, who is the quieter and more reserved of the two. It begins with their transition from being home schooled into a private school where they are surprised to find they make friends and even enjoy themselves.

But the story isn’t all happy clappy, there are challenges around every corner for our protagonists.

Everyone in the family is working to cover expenses, including their younger sister, known as Dragon, and their father turns to drink to cope with the pressures on him. Tippi and Grace have only one thing to offer that would help – selling their story (and their dignity) to the media. And neither of them really wants to do that!

Grace is falling for one of their new friends at school, but knows that no matter how much she wants it, she and Tippi are never going to be able to have boyfriends.

And meanwhile, Grace and Tippi’s health is always a concern. Because the life expectancy of conjoined twins gets lower every year that they live.

One explores a fascinating perspective and shows a glimpse into what it is like to live as a conjoined twin, and the fears and joys that are part of that package. It’s a lovely read and will challenge you and entertain you.

It’s got a little bit of mature content, but would actually be suitable for a very wide age range. It’s a fast read because of the poetic structure and I loved Crossan’s use of language and structure for effect in the text.

You could do quite a lot with it in an English teaching context – either as a starter for discussing issues about discrimination and marginalisation of people who are different in our society, or just as a fascinating use of language. There are some lovely chapters that could be analysed as poems in their own right, and yet it all comes together into an overall narrative structure.

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