Author: Sarah Crossan
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Themes: Identity, First Love, Sisterhood, Coming of Age
Age Range: 7th Grade and Above
Grace and Tippi are conjoined twins, attached at the waist. Defying the odds, they have made it to their teenage years mostly healthy and pretty happy. After being homeschooled their entire lives, Tippi and Grace transition to a traditional high school. Despite the curious looks and unkind words from many of the students, they manage to find Yasmeen and Jon, who quickly become their first and best friends. But their world is turned upside down when their mother loses her job, and suddenly they are struggling to pay for the girls' expensive medical care. And then a health crisis forces them to make the decision they've been avoiding their while life-whether to undergo separation surgery.
I really enjoyed this novel, told in a loose free verse. Grace is the narrator, which I thought was an interesting choice. This story certainly lends itself to alternating perspectives, but I think that Crossan made a good decision to focus only on one of the twins. This allowed her to show how Grace developed her sense of self and identity, both because of and in spite of her sister. Adolescence is a turbulent time for most of us, but having to manage hormones and crushes and the need for space while simultaneously being literally attached to another person heightened the angst and emotional impact.
To be honest, while I know that novel told in verse are a thing right now, that would be my only real criticism of this book. Not because I don't like novels in verse-I do. But for this story it felt unnecesary. When I think of novels in verse, I think of powerful poetry from authors like Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming) or Thanhha Lai (Inside Out and Back Again), where the format adds to the beauty and impact of the language. I'm not sure the use of poetry in the case of One actually added much to the story, and it occasionally felt a little choppy. However, the story on its own is engaging enough that the format is really only a minor criticism. I think that reluctant readers, even boys, would find a story about conjoined twins interesting enough to give it a chance, though I suspect some male readers may find it girly. Given the subject matter, there are surely paired informational readings that could be found to make it part of a larger unit of study, but if nothing else it would make a good addition to any classroom library.
Bloomsbury Kids Reading Guide
Centre for Literacy in Primary Education Teaching Sequence