Since I realize ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) are not the finalized book and can go through the editing process still, I figured I’d quote from GoodReads.com rather than the ARC itself. The cover image was also taken from GoodReads.com.
Could any two sisters be more tightly bound together than the twins, Katherine and Anna? Yet love and fate intervene to tear them apart. Katherine’s guilt and sense of betrayal leaves her longing for death, until a surprise encounter and another near catastrophe rescue her from a tragic end. Set against the magical kaleidoscope of the Philadelphia Centennial fair of 1876, National Book Award nominee Beth Kephart’s book conjures the sweep and scope of a moment in history in which the glowing future of a nation is on display to the disillusioned gaze of a girl who has determined that she no longer has a future. The tale is a pulse by pulse portrait of a young heroine’s crisis of faith and salvation in the face of unbearable loss.
I’ll be quite honest, the Goodreads description makes it sound more exciting than the story actually is. It’s narration is more contemplative than action packed, with the story being presented in mostly flashbacks as Katherine reflects on the last few months before her sister’s death. Told from Katherine’s perspective, I would have liked to have seen more of their relationship before the rift between them began. Quite honestly, neither twin was a sympathetic character, with both girls over-reacting to events and feelings. Both girls seemed highly emotional, although they never really showed it through their actions. The bad feelings continued to be burried until it was to late to bring them to the surface.
I spoke with the author briefly at the YALSA conference, and I mentioned to her that I thought the best presentation of twin relationships that I remember reading was Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (which I should probably re-read at some point in time). And although her writing is well paced and the symbolism is powerful, I didn’t feel a lasting connection. Oh there were some portions where I was able to relate, like when Katherine tells Anna “You’d be easy to hate if I didn’t love you.” (63) That line stuck with me, punched and made me pause, because there is always that one person in your life that can annoy you to no end and you know you could never abandon them or leave them. Unfortunately, the problem is that petulant Katherine doesn’t see Anna reciprocating those feelings of life-long familial committment.
I can also though see things from Anna’s point of view, which isn’t presented at all in the book. She meets a guy, and Katherine is jealous (whether she admits it or not). Katherine starts resenting Anna, and Anna senses that resentment, so she spends more and more time with said guy which causes Katherine more resentment. It’s a never ending spiral that neither one started and neither one is willing to approach or stop. It made me wonder if I’ve ever contributed to those types of feelings in others.
I don’t see this book as having much demand or appeal with teens because of the pacing and subject matter. I thought the cover photo was intriguing, but the title also misses the mark because it makes it sound like something sinister is going to happen, and instead it’s only tragic. I think it would have worked better if told from alternating viewpoints. It was a nice, fast read, just not what I was expecting.