As I mentioned when I reviewed the first two books of the Time Travelers Quartet, I was obsessed with Caroline B. Cooney’s books in middle school. I borrowed my school library’s selection of Cooney books repeatedly. They were easy to read and compelling to my 11-year-old brain. Twins was another roller coaster of emotions and twisted revelations.
Obviously, the book is about twins, and from what I recall one was a Good Twin and one was Possibly Evil. They were separated and I think one was sent to boarding school, and when the Possibly Evil sister comes to visit, Possibly Evil dies. Good Twin feels like she’s the less favored twin and decides to fake her death and pretend she’s her more popular sister. What she doesn’t know is her sister has been keeping a lot of not-so-nice secrets…
Childhood Rating: 5 out of 5 Evil Twins
This post will contain SPOILERSSSSSS.
Mary Lee is distraught. She’s being sent to boarding school, far from her identical twin and best friend, Madrigal. The twins have never been separated and Mary Lee desperately pleads with her parents to let her stay home to no avail. Mother and Father (yes, the girls call their parents “Mother” and “Father”) have seemingly realized that raising the girls to be inseparable has been detrimental to them. Mary Lee insists that if she’s separated from Madrigal, they won’t be whole any more. Mother and Father believe the twins’ dependency on each other is unhealthy and they need to form their own identities. Mary Lee feels lost and betrayed when Madrigal agrees with her parents. Mary Lee is sent off on a plane to boarding school and can’t even communicate to Madrigal through their “twin waves.”
At school, Mary Lee has trouble making friends due to her wet blanket of a personality and constant moping about her separation from Madrigal. When she comes home for Christmas break, she finds out Madrigal now has a boyfriend, dashing Mary Lee’s desire for a glorious reunion with her twin. The boyfriend’s name is Jon Pear. Jon effin Pear. They call him by his full name at all times.
This is truly the most barf-worthy “hot boyfriend name” I’ve ever heard in my whole life. What was the thought process behind this name? I’m truly curious. Were drugs involved? Anyway, Madrigal refuses to introduce her sister to her fruitily named boyfriend and forbids Mary Lee from trying to meet him. As Mary Lee returns to school she feels more lost and alone than ever, jealous that Madrigal’s transition from twin to individual is going smoothly. She wishes she had Madrigal’s charmed life.
Madrigal calls to tell Mary Lee she’s coming to visit and go skiing without their parents’ permission, and Mary Lee is euphoric to a creepy degree. She runs around the school telling everyone she’s an identical twin who is coming to visit, and it’s going to be FABULOUS. Her classmates are all like:
Once Madrigal shows up, Mary Lee’s classmates are astonished the girls are related, let alone identical twins. Madrigal hatches a plan to switch ski outfits with Mary Lee and swap identities so Mary Lee can seem like the cooler twin and make friends. This is stupid because the girls at school already know what a drip Mary Lee is, especially compared to vivacious Madrigal, so it’s not like a change of horribly 90s ski outfits would fool them. Mary Lee’s wish to have Madrigal’s life comes true when Madrigal falls off the ski lift, hits an outcrop of rocks, and dies. Everyone thinks Mary Lee is the dead twin because of the brilliant costume change, and Mary Lee goes along with this assumption after her classmates ignore her trying to tell them she’s Mary Lee. Everyone’s relief that boring Mary Lee is gone instead of Madrigal eases Mary Lee’s transition. She’s upset at her sister’s death, but happy she can return home and live Madrigal’s seemingly fabulous life.
People at home are more concerned with how “Madrigal’s” coping than with “Mary Lee’s” death. Mary Lee even overhears her parents saying the right twin died and express regret for every having twins. Mary Lee finally meets the mysterious Jon Pear and is immediately scared of him. Good call M.L., because he’s a total creep who says things like “I am Jon Pear”, “We are twins now”, and catches her tears in a bottle and eats them. This is all within five minutes of Mary Lee meeting him (although he doesn’t know she’s not Madrigal). Like, girl, maybe go tell your parents your boyfriend is a psycho. They have a run-in with Mary Lee’s old friends Scarlett and Van, who don’t seem too happy that “Madrigal” has survived. Mary Lee wonders what happened between her sister and her old friends.
Jon Pear’s weirdness continues, and most of their conversations go like this:
J.P.: I am so happy Mary Lee is dead. We are twins now!
M.L.: But I miss my twin.
J.P.: You don’t need her. We are twins!
M.L.: Mary Lee was my only twin.
J.P.: We are soul twins!
M.L.: My only twin is dead.
J.P.: I am the only twin you need!
M.L.: We will never be twins.
J.P.: We are twins!
No, seriously. That’s the gist.
Mary Lee discovers her sister and Jon Pear got their kicks by being massive sociopathic d-bags. No one truly liked Madrigal; they were all scared to get on her bad side. Jon Pear alludes to Mary Lee’s death as pre-meditated, and Mary Lee finds out Van and Scarlet have been distant towards her because Madrigal and Jon Pear pick up random girls and leave them in dangerous parts of the city. When they did it to Scarlet, she curled up on the side of the road, swarmed by rats. I know. This book is dreadful.
Jon Pear keeps waxing pornographic about how much he loves seeing panic in people’s eyes, how glad he is that “Madrigal’s” conscience (Mary Lee’s telepathic sweetness) is gone, and he now wants to see “Madrigal” panic. He gives her the same lame terror treatment, and when they return to school Mary Lee lets everyone know who she truly is. Her parents have apparently known all along.
Jon Pear wants to plan something nefarious for Winter Sleigh Day, and when the day arrives the local kids corner him on the thin ice of the lake where a skating competition is taking place. Mary Lee objects to the kids’ plan to kill J.P. with icicles because she is so good and sweet, but is distracted when a young boy falls through the ice. She looks back after saving the boy and only sees a crack in the ice with what appears to be blood below it.
Everything about this book was a mess. The characters were all weird. Mary Lee is like the twin sisters on My Strange Addiction who were addicted to being together.
She’s crazy. I don’t totally fault Madrigal for turning to the Dark Side after having a sister who practically wanted to be conjoined. Mary Lee ties her whole identity to her twinness and being forced to be on her own leaves her emotionally crippled. Madrigal was apparently bitter her whole life about being considered half of a person, and their parents knew she was an evil little wench the whole time. They sent Mary Lee away to “keep her safe” instead of getting Madrigal psychiatric help. Jon Pear is never really explained…sometimes it seems like he’s an evil supernatural being (M.L. is unable to cry after J.P. steals her tears), but Mary Lee asserts he’s a lousy human. There’s also a part where Madrigal’s mirror talks back to Mary Lee, and it’s never explored again. Was Jon Pear a demon? We’ll never know. He reminded me of a less-cool version of J.D. from Heathers.
He had zero wittiness or humor to help me understand why Madrigal might have liked him.
Maybe I need to keep Rereading more Caroline B. Cooney books, but with Twins and the Time Travelers Quartet, I’ve realized how obsessed her protagonists are with being beautiful. Part of why Mary Lee misses Madrigal so intensely is because they’re an “Event” when they appear together, because they’re beautiful, gorgeous, identical twins with long black hair and blah blah blah. Just like Annie from Both Side of Time and Out of Time, the twins’ personalities suffer because they get by on their beauty. It’s lazy characterization, but I guess all pre-teen girls want to live vicariously through beautiful characters.
I guess the point of this book was that it’s important to be your own person, or something, but it had a weird way of promoting this message.
Adulthood Rating: 2 out of 5 plaid and velvet 90s ski suits