I first read Identical by Ellen Hopkins when I was in high school. I’d started with Crank (if you haven’t yet read an Ellen Hopkins book, I highly suggest you start there), and was so eager to get my hands on more. The first time I read Identical was an experience I have only encountered once since. I didn’t see the ending of Identical coming, just as I didn’t see the ending of The Fault in Our Stars coming. These are the only two times that an ending has surprised me so much that I still, to this day, wonder how their authors so masterfully left me dumbfounded.
I think this is the most disturbing Ellen Hopkins book I’ve read (and I’ve read them all). If you’ve been following along here, you’ll know that I’m going back through the 5-star reads of my life and reviewing them with a second read. So, this month, I picked up Identical. Even now, there is just something really difficult about reading this book. Taking this plunge is not for the faint of heart.
I’m not ruining anything for you by sharing that this book is about twin girls, one of whom receives the misplaced love of her father (that much is given away on the back cover copy). Incest. A father who’s love is so misguided that he finds solace in his own daughter’s bedroom. It’s a tough pill to swallow, and then we get an even closer look: we experience the daughter’s abuse through her own eyes.
** Spoiler content below. **
I think it’s clear what the big, surprising reveal at the end is: during that accident that is so subtly referenced at the beginning, one of the twins died. Ever since, Kaeleigh has been taking on the persona of Raeanne. Wow. The first time I read Identical I didn’t see this coming. Now, having read it for a second time, I paid attention to the warning signs. They were there.
Even now that I can see how this ending comes to fruition, I’m still in awe. I’m in awe of the initial concept, of its execution, of the devastating blow it leaves at the end. This story is one that’ll stick with me forever. Kaeleigh has taken a piece of my heart, and I don’t believe that I’ll ever stop feeling the need to fight for her.
Most disturbingly of all, this shit is going on today, in our world. When you walk down a suburban street and wonder what’s happening behind that perfect, wreath-adorning front door, remember that the possibilities are endless. Remember that there are children all over the world who don’t have a voice and whom need you to be that voice, or that lending ear, for them.
Identical is a wonderful way to open hearts and minds. If you need your perspective broadened, this is a good place to start. The tragedy and devastation that plagues our world is likely far more gruesome than you think. With open minds we can have willing hearts, and that’s what Ellen has accomplished with Identical.
My full review of Identical is also available on Goodreads. Have you read Identical? Please leave a comment below (spoiler free)!