One is the 2016 of the Clip Carnegie medal, so it comes with good pedigree, I was hoping for something rather less traumatic, but just as compelling as The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks. The premise follows Grace and Tippi who are conjoined twins, schooled at home, but about to start that traditional source of teenage angst and stress – the American High School. They are of course a source of curiosity for their fellow students, and the soon make friends with Yasmeen and Jon, outsiders themselves who accept the twins without mockery or judgement. There is of course a spanner in the works, the twins health fails and the doctors have to decide whether to separate them or not, and after 16 years, this is physically and emotionally terrifying for Grace, Tippi and their family.
It all sounds rather straight forward, and in all honesty it is. It falls into that “teen(s) under pressure” category of YA fiction, alongside The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and The Bunker Diary. Perhaps I am getting old and cynical, but the novel feels like a well-trodden path with the new twist of co-joined twins. There are some interesting set pieces such as how their psychologist deals with giving them therapy individually, and how the practicalities of life are handled. Beyond that though, there is little depth, certainly it is missing that real psychological tension and insight that The Bunker Diary gave us, and which surely must exist in such life and death situations.
One was up against stiff competition, including The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness and The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick, so I wonder why this won over these other fantastic novels. The writing style is unusual, with very short chapters, some written as poems, short bursts of prose and verse. Perhaps it was this, which is uncommon in YA fiction the judges saw as pushing it ahead of the others on the shortlist. I can’t help that feel though that it might be clever, it lacked soul. Certainly read it, it’s a good book, but it isn’t a medal winner for me.