A small town home fits just right for Clara, who longs to study the night sky and live in the familiar community where everyone knows her and her sister Hailey. But Hailey wants more. She learns of an art program in San Francisco, and soon it’s all she can think about. Problem is, where Hailey goes, Clara must go, as the two are conjoined twins. While Clara and Hailey can’t imagine life any other way, they each long for things that seem impossible. A boyfriend. World travel. A trip to the stars.
Last year I read One by Sarah Crossan, and I kind of expected this story to follow much the same path. Instead, Gemini charts its own course, following the story of two gifted girls. There were definitely some unexpected moments. At one point, Hailey confronts a girl who’d been a bully in the past. The girl responds angrily, saying she’s spent years trying to make up for her mistake and be kind to Hailey and Clara. Hailey realizes that perhaps this is true, and perhaps she’s the one who’s been holding a grudge and being judgmental. This was a great moment, and it challenged some overused themes about who the bullies and the victims are.
The twins explore what it would take to have a normal life and whether that’s worth risking everything to have. Mukherjee let that journey wind through familiar and expected territory and also into some paths less often tread. Gemini made me appreciate the choices Clara and Hailey made and celebrate their victories and dreams. Some of their dreams become possible. Others remain out of reach. But isn’t that life for us all?
Readers who enjoyed One by Sarah Crossan would probably also enjoy this novel. Fans of Sister Pact by Stacie Ramey and stories that explore deep emotional questions and the bonds of sisterhood will want to add Gemini to their reading lists.
Hailey and Clara are conjoined twins, joined back to back. Juanita is one of the girls’ best friends and confidantes. At the start of the story, a boy joins Hailey’s and Clara’s classes. They soon discover that he stutters, especially in situations with high social pressure.
Clara especially struggles with social situations in which people stare or say and do rude things. One of the reasons the family lives in a small community is so that everyone will get used to seeing them and they’ll be able to have something like a normal life within the community. The story explores the idea of normalcy and what it really means to the girls. As they begin to think about college programs, it’s clear they have very different aspirations.
The boys, Alek and Max, address Hailey and Clara individually, at times almost forgetting that they’re joined. While all of that happened seamlessly in the scenes of the story, it felt like a big statement about their individuality and personhood, one I felt was cleverly incorporated into the story.
The issue of surgery to separate the twins does come up, and they evaluate it carefully.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used with moderate frequency.
Boys from school tease Clara’s new friend Max about his interest in her and Hailey, saying he must be interested in them because he’d be getting two girls at the same time. Max explodes, yelling at the way the other boys speak about Hailey and Clara, as if they’re objects or sex toys.
Hailey’s friend Alek paints a picture that disturbs her. His art often involves gore or dark elements. He later explains why death so often appears in his art juxtaposed against Thomas Kincade-like settings. The pictures are usually only briefly described. The picture that bothers Hailey has a little more description. Alek explains the symbolism of the image and why there’s so much blood, and he means the expression to be flattering. (Yeah, this doesn’t make much sense here. It makes more sense in the story, but I don’t want to give too much away.)
The girls go to a party, but leave early.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.