It doesn’t matter if you grow up in the ghetto or the affluent suburbs, if you come from New York or California, if you’re beautiful or if you’re ugly: Sometimes, love is cruel. That’s one of the themes in Marcy Dermansky’s debut, Twins [Harper], a black-humor, heart-breaking, occasionally disturbing and thoroughly entertaining novel about well-to-do, blue-eyed, blonde-haired, identical twin sisters with a life that is anything but Mary Kate and Ashley.
This wonderfully-twisted tour through Chloe and Sue’s adolescence begins with Sue’s manipulative, obsessive love for her sister; branding them both with tattoos of each other’s names in a forced, forever love at the age of 13. The girls, along with older brother Daniel, and their standard poodle Daisy (won in a client’s divorce settlement but never actually wanted), are pretty much left to fend for themselves as their wealthy workaholic lawyer parents serve as models for child neglect. From ages thirteen to eighteen, the girls ride a dizzying rollercoaster of eating disorders, alcohol and drugs, dysfunctional friendships, sexual experiences, failures and accomplishments.
The unstable, bordering-on-psychotic character of Sue is initially the one that hooks the reader over her people-pleasing, do-good sister, Chloe. But before you’re halfway through the book, you’ll be loving Chloe for a myriad of surprising dark reasons, as well. You’ll even come to like big brother Daniel, despite his penchant for booze, insults and Nazi biographies. Dermansky’s voice is easy and lively to read, with each chapter alternating points of view from each twin. While this is a work of fiction, these are characters we’ve all seen, been, know and occasionally even love--and that just makes it all so damned believable. If Hollywood hasn’t snapped up the rights to Twins by time of this review, California must have fallen in the ocean.