One by Sarah Crossan. Book Review.
One by Sarah Crossan. Book Review.
Here we are. And we are living. Isn't that amazing? How we manage to be at all.
Grace and Tippi don't like being stared and sneered at, but they're used to it. They're conjoined twins - united in blood and bone.
What they want is to be looked at in turn, like the truly are two people. They want real friends. And what about love?
But a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead for Tippi and Grace. One that could change their lives more than they ever asked for...
And we are living.
Isn’t that amazing?
How we manage
Sarah Crossan in One
Tippi and Grace are twins. Sixteen and a half years old, and pretty. Like most twins, they are joined at the hip. But unlike most, they actually are.
Tippi and Grace are conjoined, sharing a pair of legs and everything else from the waist down.
They know they are different but for them, this is all they have ever known.
But now, everything they have ever known is about to change.
We follow the twins through six months of their lives, from Grace’s perspective.
In this time they start at a new school and face challenges common to many teenage girls. Friendships, boys, making decisions about smoking and drinking, and chasing their first taste of independence from their parents.
They face problems at home, as their parents deal with job insecurity and financial strain, and their younger sister chases her dream of being a ballet dancer.
And they come to terms with what it really means to be sixteen-year-old conjoined twins, and what that means for their future.
One is a story told in an unconventional way. It is written in verse, words are sparse and there is more white space on a page than black ink. Despite the unusual form the narrative takes, it is very easy to read.
The economical use of words means that every single one is important. There is no unnecessary detail and no embellishing of fact. Grace tells it as she sees it, and says what she means. She is frank when discussing her condition and doesn’t shy away from the realities of being a conjoined twin. But she doesn’t tell us everything, and this reflects her feelings on the curiosity shown by strangers:
“the details of all our bodies remain a secret
unless we want to tell.
And people always want to know.
They want to know exactly what we share
so sometimes we tell them.
Not because it’s their business
but to stop them wondering – it’s all the
about out bodies that bothers us.”
There is commentary on normality. For some people being normal is all they could ever hope for, while for others, they want to be anything but.
What is normal, anyway?
It is a story about identity. Two girls sharing one body and one life. Two very different girls who have personalities and opinions and dreams but who aren’t really seen by strangers, who only see the physical difference.
People are not their medical condition or their disability.
And it is a testament to family, to the effect that chronic illness or disability has on family, and the power that family and love have in return.
This book covered a lot of ground in the discussion of young people living with chronic illness or disability, but there are two points in particular I wanted to raise.
First, this book highlights the needs, often forgotten, of the siblings of children with chronic illness or disability. When so much time and money and attention is focussed on the child with a complex medical condition, the needs of the siblings can often be overlooked. Not intentionally, of course, but they can be overlooked.
And second, is the role that people with uncommon medical conditions have in medical education. Grace described the situation perfectly:
like every other time before,
Dr Derrick parades his
and asks if we mind them
watching the exam.
Of course we mind.
But Dr Derrick’s stethoscope and white coat
do not permit disagreement…”
As someone who has been a medical student, I can attest to the fact that this does happen and it can be uncomfortable for all involved – the students and the patients. Whilst there are patients who enthusiastically volunteer to be examined by medical students, the majority agree in good spirits but probably grudgingly, and would rather be left alone. This is not ever going to stop – doctors need to see real patients to learn real medicine – but it is vital to remember the patient perspective.
This is a wonderful book, with a unique protagonist in Grace, an achingly difficult decision set amongst more common day-to-day challenges, and a beautiful story of love between two soul mates.
I highly recommend it!
Have you read One? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Let’s discuss in the comments below.
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