Teenaged girls have enough problems in high school. Classes, college, boys . . . it’s almost a boring old formula. But Gemini is a YA novel with a big difference, one that makes it an interesting and emotional read no matter what your age.
Gemini is about two conjoined twins who navigate all the classic issues girls their age do, and they rise to the challenges despite their medical abnormality.
How does Mukherjee write a successful book with such a twist? Granted, the nature of the main characters; their “condition” if you can call it that, is something so unique to them it’s almost impossible to be empathetic. They are going through something that for most people is impossible to imagine.
“Like an animal at a zoo, I was on display, and I didn’t get a vote about that.”
It is difficult to imagine the twins’ life, but Mukherjee manages to make us empathize. She humanizes the twins—Clara and Hailey—by making them almost normal while they are so different. She humanizes them by putting them in situations that we can all imagine: a cute boy moves to the school, college decisions are overwhelming, parents want to rule. Even though readers may not understand the conjoined aspect itself, they can understand the situations the twins go through, and a lightbulb goes off in their heads: Hey, this could be me!
Even the angst, the feeling that you’re different and somehow nobody accepts you, is universal, especially for younger readers.
“How could I ever have a day where I don’t feel weird? They used to put people like us in the circus! We go around this town, acting like everybody here accepts us, like they all think we’re just one of the gang, but it’s never been true.”
The story revolves around Clara and Hailey struggling with several issues simultaneously, which is standard YA fare. Clara may or may not be interested in a new boy at school. Hailey may or may not wish to study art at a college far from home. These desires are made almost impossible because they are conjoined, but they—or the author—do not shy away from this fact.
We don’t forget for a moment that the twins cannot do these things because of the problems’ own challenges, but because of the fact that they are essentially two bodies in one. We learn how the twins sleep, how they sit in the classroom, even how they go to the bathroom. If you ever had any questions about how conjoined twins live their daily lives, Gemini is a really good education.
The way that Mukherjee makes a phenomenon like conjoined twins easily understandable is brilliant. There is lots of description, many explanations, but all is done through dialogue or reminiscing. As soon as the story starts, readers begin to wonder why the twins cannot have an operation to separate themselves. Toward the end of the book, the twins themselves have these questions, and dialogues with their parents shed a spotlight on the dangerous risks of such surgeries.
At the same time, the story is one that most YA readers will relate to. Even more importantly, the characters are very relatable as well. Clara is private and quiet in manner and dress. She likes astronomy and science in general. Hailey has pink hair and an effervescent personality, and she dreams of being an artist one day, traveling the world to visit amazing places. But at the same time their love and closeness to each other is so well defined that somehow they make a perfect fit.
“We were not like everyone else. Who besides us had two minds that understood each other perfectly?”
So what does one gain from reading Gemini, besides the average YA excitement? On one hand Gemini is full of drama like all books for teens. On the other hand it opens up a while different world of disabilities and conditions that one may not really have thought about, but after reading the book, one cannot stop thinking of. That’s the power of a book like Gemini.