book cover for The Originals by Cat Patrick

Magan: The Originals by Cat Patrick

book cover for The Originals by Cat PatrickThe Originals by Cat Patrick (website | twitter)
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 304
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: sisters, clones, scandal, hiding
Format read: ARC received via Edelweiss (Thank you!)

Summary: Lizzie, Betsey, and Ella split each and every day into thirds. They’re allowed outside their house to spend their third of the day acting as one person, Elizabeth Best. No one knows their secret, but they’re tired of pretending they aren’t clones and desperately wish for individuality.

Imagine this:

Two other girls look exactly like you. Your mother has you pretending to be one person. Your days are broken into thirds, very scheduled, and you each only spend your portion of the day outside your home. No one knows the truth about you and your sisters. Why?

You’re clones.

Lizzie and her sisters Betsey and Ella have been pretending to be one person since they moved to San Diego when they were nine years old. Due to a huge scandal and to protect the girls, their mother devised a calculated plan and schedule to keep their secret hidden. No one can know the truth.

But what happens when the girls begin questioning their reality?
What if all the questioning reveals that your mother has secrets of her own?

The questioning begins when Ella and Lizzie begin to fall for two different boys and their mother makes the executive decision about who they (yes, they) will “date.” Lizzie’s heart is broken that Sean isn’t chosen and Dave (his repertoire looks much better on paper than  in person) is. She has to pretend to be into Dave during her afternoon hours at school when her heart is pining for Sean, the boy who is a talented writer and photographer and makes plans to meet up with her during half time.

There’s so so so much that unfolds in Cat Patrick’s The Originals. First of all — cloning? what? — such an interesting and unique storyline. The concept alone fascinates me. Personally I don’t think I could ever clone something; I would be so let down if this re-created person/animal weren’t exactly the same as the original. What if it had completely different idiosyncrasies? And then there’s the whole psychological aspect of cloning that really weighs on me. What does it feel like to be the replacement? (For the record, I think Patrick tackles the psychological so brilliantly in both of her stories I’ve read — The Originals and Forgotten.)

For Ella, Lizzie, and Betsey, I found it bewildering that they hadn’t really questioned their mother’s decisions very much. There’s this whole element that will really have you reeling from how much the girls are afraid to dive into the truth. Maybe they’re suffering from something like Stockholm Syndrome? More and more, as they dug deeper for answers, I found myself crazily going through the pages. (My kindle couldn’t keep up!) I had to know why their mother would isolate them so much. To trust her or to turn her into the cops? — that was the ultimate question.

It felt so amazing to experience another Cat Patrick book. She sets the scene so well and really makes sure you’re getting a sense of the entire scope of the story while leaving a nice dose of intrigue to keep you glued to the pages. Bonus points also go to The Originals for being a standalone. I loved that nothing was drawn out and the action was continually moving forward to wrap up nicely in one book.

Cat’s other book, Revived,  is on my bookshelf, glaring at me, waiting to be read. I might just have to abandon everything else to continue reveling in another of Patrick’s books.

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Estelle: Rosie and Skate by Beth Ann Bauman

Rosie and Skate by Beth Ann BaumanRosie and Skate by Beth Ann BaumanSparklejollytwinklejingley Holiday Winter Book Reviews
Publication Date: August 11, 2009
Publisher: Wendy Lamb
Pages: 224
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Sisters, alcoholism, winter at the beach, New Jersey
Format read: Bought used hardcover after reading/reviewing Jersey Angel.

Summary: The summer folks have left the Boardwalk, and while Rosie and Skate embrace time without the crowds they are left to deal with an alcoholic dad in jail, first love, long distance relationships, and family.

It wasn’t until Hurricane Sandy hit and I was sitting home watching the devasting pictures of the Jersey Shore I love so much that I remembered I had Rosie and Skate to read. I dug through my bookcase, pulled out my used copy, turned it over and spotted a familar sight: the Ferris Wheel at the center of so many aftermath photos all fine and dandy. It kind of threw me for a loop.

So I started Rosie and Skate in hopes of preserving some of my own memories of Seaside Heights and off-season moments spent at the beach with my family for so many years.

Not only did Bauman succeed with teleporting me back, but she also gave me the complex and flushed out story I was looking for but failed to find in Jersey Angel. Rosie and Skate couldn’t be more different. In fact, it’s hard to believe they are sisters sometimes. Only a year apart, they don’t live in the same house since their father went to jail: Skate lives at her boyfriend’s house with his mom while he is at college and Rosie lives in their home with a cousin who has traveled up from Florida to stay with them.

Rosie takes her dad’s actions to heart, while Skate doesn’t want much to do with him. The tension you would assume to feel between these two because of their beliefs doesn’t divide them; instead it’s the fact that though close in age, they are in two different places in their lives. Skate is dealing with a long distance relationship with her boyfriend, who doubles as her best friend. And Rosie is more of a loner, going to group meetings with other people affected by alcoholism and not really bringing home a ton of friends.

Both girls deal with such raw issues — on top of everything with their dad, there’s the disconnect Skate feels from her college boyfriend and how it feels her world stops spinning because he’s not close by, and Rosie wondering if a boy will ever like her at all. Bauman made these two ladies so real without once overcompensating with language; the cadence of this story is so well-paced and so well-timed.

Somehow the sisters have to meet in the middle to strengthen an unbalanced family unit, and it’s surprising how this happens and how their relationships with others grow and change throughout the process. Skate needs to find some kind of understanding with her father, while Rosie needs to step back and not take responsibility for her father’s failings. Together, without much fanfare and without suffocating each other, the two manage to move forward.

It’s funny. For a book about sisters, Rosie and Skate don’t spend a lot of time together. Their independence from one another was really refreshing. I liked seeing these two sisters interally debate the situation with their father but also have to wade separate issues on their own.

P.S. For you diehard holiday fanatics (me! me!), there’s plenty of merriment to go around as well.

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Estelle: All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin

All You Never Wanted by Adele GriffinAll You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin ( website | tweet )
Publication Date: October 9, 2012
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 240
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: siblings, re-marriage, insecurity
Format read: ARC from NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: Sister relationships are never easy, but ever since their mother’s remarriage to a wealthy man… Alex and Thea seem to be at odds. Alex is popular, pretty, and smart and younger sister Thea wants to find her place in Alex’s circle, in any way possible. She’s crushing on Alex’s hot boyfriend, while Alex is crumbling under her own pressure to take care of herself. Secrets,  untruths, and family boundaries come to a shocking finale in this dark novel.

If I wrote down five facts about me  and five facts about my sister, it would probably be hard to believe we are related. We are just so different. But sometimes we make the same facial expressions, we share the same parental frustrations, and she will not let me forget when I tied her to a chair when she was little. (She even mentioned this is her maid-of-honor speech at my wedding.)

Even though she’s the younger one… sometimes I wish I had her wisdom and sense of adventure. Sometimes I wish I never succumbed to academic pressures I threw on myself until college was done. I wish I could pull off a pixie hair cut like she does. And, I’m sure, if someone asked her… there is one or two things about me that she might want for her own.

In the case of Alex and Thea, they formed a close-knit unit with their mother as they struggled to make ends meet with their father left. That solidarity has taken a back seat since their mother remarried a wealthy man who provides them with all the money and leather products and fancy cars they ever imagined. So money doesn’t exactly bring happiness… instead their mother is frequently absent from their lives (without even realizing it), Thea has sewn a complex web of lies to further her status in high school, and an embarrassing moment for Alex causes her to take “control” of her body in a horrific way.

I know, I know. It sounds a lot like a “poor little rich girl” story, doesn’t it?

Craftily, Griffin manages to keep this dark and twisty tale grounded despite Thea’s delusions of grandeur and Alex’s continual meltdown. It seems totally justifiable that a family could be at odds without even knowing it, nostalgic about the way things used to be but ignoring the reality of their current situation. Even this “rivalry” between Alex and Thea has its push and pull moments where Alex needs Thea, Thea comes to her aid (even though it’s half-hearted) but Alex is aware of how Thea looks at her boyfriend and Thea is actively trying to become the queen bee of their school.

It’s a ridiculously complex story where many of these characters could probably use a bit of therapy. The extremes that Thea took and her off-the-wall behavior was embarrassing, bordering on psychotic. And Alex was her direct foil. Her extremes cut her off from everyone (or so she thought) and sent her down a dizzying spiral. I couldn’t help but be an enthusiastic member of Team Alex, and hope that Thea would learn her lesson. Especially when Xander, a boy from her volunteer after-school program, starts to shed a positive light on this entire book.

I don’t want to say he was a savior, but he was certainly a much welcomed character. I was really hoping that Alex would learn to lean on him because she really needed someone to see through her bullshit because, in her own way, she was creating a mask of lies too.

While I had a little trouble adjusting to Griffin’s language in the first chapter, I settled in nicely and was very invested in Thea and Alex and how and when the grand firework finale would break down the rest of novel. I didn’t exactly have faith that these sisters could detangle themselves from one another, and step forward — into a better place. I was definitely holding my breath.

One more thing. There aren’t many books that I want to reread right after finishing them the first time. But Griffin is such a detailed and skilled writer, I wanted to go back immediately and discover all the details she buried within her chapters. She took what could have easily been a superficial premise and gave it such rich layers. I also didn’t waste any time: two more books by Griffin are sitting on my nightstand right now.

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More thoughts on All You Never Wanted:

Kelly at Radiant Shadows: “Complicated, relationship between sisters and a writing style that I enjoyed did make All You Never Wanted a mostly entertaining read.”