I’m lucky that Wenlock Books was sent a proof copy of One and so before anyone else claimed it, I snuck it into my bag to take home. I’ve not read any books by Sarah Crossan before although I’d read amazing reviews about The Weight of Water and ordered it for stock at the beginning of the year. Just like The Weight of Water, One is written in verse and is one of the most wonderful books that I’ve ever read.
Set in New Jersey, One tells the story of conjoined twins Grace and Tippi as their family struggles financially and emotionally when they start school aged 16. Told from Grace’s point of view, Sarah brilliantly explores the bond between the sisters in a way that is powerful yet touching. I was expecting to feel emotional when reading One but honestly, I wasn’t expecting to feel as attached to the characters as I did.
The inspiration behind One came from Sarah’s fascination with twins and after watching a documentary about conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel in 2013, she knew that there was a story to be written. Despite not having a twin, or even a sister, Sarah drew upon feelings that she has experienced as a mother, notably the physical pain that she feels when separated from her child. This raw emotion is clear and is conveyed in a way that allowed me as a reader to feel her pain too.
What is particularly striking about One is how it’s written entirely in verse, a style that allows the author to write freely and capably. One is the only book written in verse that I’ve ever read and I think that it gives Grace a powerful and realistic voice because her speech is free moving and uninterrupted by grammatical features. The use of verse also opens up a closer bond between reader and narrator as in many parts it felt as if I was directly accessing Grace’s thoughts.
Often when first-person narrative is used, the narrator will analyse a thought that they’ve expressed or will provide comment on a scenario but with One, this wasn’t necessary as Grace’s free-flowing thoughts were sufficient. So much of the charm of this book comes from the fact that it’s written in verse and I’m pleased that Sarah stuck with it; ‘although I began One in verse, I switched to prose about half way through and wrote around 30,000 words this way until I decided to go back to verse because it was the only way Grace could speak authentically’.
Sometimes when reading books set in places other than the UK I feel like an outsider as I struggle with references and meaning, yet with One I felt completely immersed and included. I think that perhaps this comes from the fact that Sarah lived in New Jersey for 8 years and consequently has an understanding of how to portray the lifestyle realistically without being over the top or excluding non-native readers. Because of the combination of UK author and American setting I think that One will appeal to a much wider audience without the content having to be diluted to a ‘one size fits all’.
One is ultimately a story of love that has been approached in a beautiful and gentle manner. Although heart-breaking in parts, I wouldn’t put off reading One for fear of being upset, rather I would encourage everyone to read it and experience this wonderful story for themselves. It’s hard not to become invested in Grace and Tippi’s lives and it’s no surprise to hear that this was an emotionally difficult book to write with Sarah saying, ‘It was a very hard book to write, especially the ending. I cried a lot as I struggled with how to end the story as I felt so connected to the girls’.
The marketing slogan for One is, ‘The One book to read this summer’ and I really do agree. If there is only one thing that people read this summer, I honestly think that this is it. There is something very magical and special about One, and I think that it would be a massive shame for others not to enjoy that too. It’s certainly not a difficult read because even though it might look fairly chunky at over 400 pages long, there are hardly any words on each page as it’s in verse. I’ve never read anything so unusual, nor have I read anything quite so touching. This is an amazing, deep, heart-breaking and emotional story but the tears are definitely worth it.
A great big thank you to Sarah for kindly allowing me to email lots of times, and for taking the time to chat on Twitter with me about books!
One will be published by Bloomsbury Children’s on August 27th.