In the midst of her devastation over a break-up, Sarah realizes something isn’t right with her twin. Annie has been withdrawing from the family for some time, but her behavior seems to be escalating. She chops off her hair, gains weight, and gives up the beauty pageants she once lived for. Though shy and socially anxious Sarah has always been jealous of the way her parents favor Annie, she begins to worry about her sister. Sarah pushes toward her sister, and finds that in return, Annie reluctantly opens up to her.
The writing style was the first thing that captured me in this story. The voice is strong, conveying Sarah’s inner agony and Annie’s mounting frustration with aching clarity. There was one moment at the beginning where I felt like the story was a bit repetitive in describing Sarah’s reaction to her family’s interactions. Other than that, things moved forward at a great pace, and I tore through the story in one sitting of just a few hours.
Annie’s weight gain dramatically changes the way the other students interact with her. While Annie feels that her new look is a shield against unwanted male attention, she also endures some hateful behavior from other kids. The exploration of body image and how weight affects the way others perceive us is important. Williams doesn’t shy away from the sad reality there. Annie eventually decides to return to her old look, and while I get it, I found myself wishing somehow that there had been a bigger pause, a bigger moment to say that it really doesn’t/shouldn’t matter what her weight is. Returning to her slimmer figure doesn’t increase her actual value, though it functioned as an indicator of Annie’s rising sense of her own value – she’d been hiding behind those extra pounds and shedding them would be like facing an enemy head-on. It showed real courage.
The resolution was a bit quick. All the way through the story Annie hints that she has a secret. It smells like sexual abuse, but we don’t find out what it is until the big reveal maybe three-quarters of the way through the story. Once this comes out, Sarah takes some action to protect her sister. Following this, we get kind of a summary of how everyone responded and what happened after that (visit spoiler section if you want to know more.) I felt like some of that was a bit rushed and didn’t allow me a chance to soak in the characters’ emotions in what was a really big moment.
I loved watching the sisters’ relationship develop. As a girl with two sisters, one close enough in age that we were often mistaken for twins, the tug-of-war Annie and Sarah experienced in terms of establishing their own identities and finding ways to connect despite their differences and pressure from parents or friends felt extremely real.
As I read, I found myself looking for the spiritual tie-in. Though this is a Zondervan book, there was not really any link that I could see to pursuing a Christian faith or even searching out questions about whether God is real or anything like that. I found it a bit puzzling, to be honest.
Sarah recalls time spent with her boyfriend snuggling in his bed (clothed), kissing, and sneaking in/out of each other’s rooms. (see below for additional content which includes spoilers.)
Shocked? Me too. Despite the fact that Zondervan is a Christian publisher… I can’t remember faith really playing any sort of role whatsoever in the story.
SPOILER (select the text below to read…)
Sexual content continued… Annie reveals that she’s no longer a virgin and that she’s had sex with a married man, even after she told him no. It’s a quick conversation and there’s not a lot of follow-up information.
While I appreciate that we weren’t dragged through the gory details of Annie’s relationship, I kind of felt like the resolution of this information, which the whole story has been building up to, was too quick and too many things were left unsaid. We have enough infer that it’s a bad relationship from the brief information Annie reveals, and there’s a brief wrap-up letting us know that this guy isn’t going to get off scot-free. I just felt like it needed to be a bigger moment. I wanted to really feel Annie’s parents realize what’s been happening and see them respond to her with all the shock, horror, and protection, rather than just have Sarah tell us that was so.