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Secret Twin
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Secret Twin

5.0 1
by Denise Gosliner Orenstein, Dan Mccarthy (Illustrator)

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Noah has a secret unlike any other. . . .

He is the rarest of humans.

Noah was born conjoined, sharing a heart with his twin brother, but only he has survived. Thirteen years later, when his grandmother undergoes painful surgery, Noah finds himself in the care of Nurse Grace, who has a secret of her own. And when another stranger, a mysterious sniper, begins


Noah has a secret unlike any other. . . .

He is the rarest of humans.

Noah was born conjoined, sharing a heart with his twin brother, but only he has survived. Thirteen years later, when his grandmother undergoes painful surgery, Noah finds himself in the care of Nurse Grace, who has a secret of her own. And when another stranger, a mysterious sniper, begins to terrorize their city, Noah and Grace must confront the extraordinary circumstances of their present lives and the possibilities of the unknown beyond.

In spare, lyrical prose, Denise Gosliner Orenstein knits a powerful, unusual tale of two voices and a joint journey of separation, self-discovery, and forgiveness.

Editorial Reviews

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Plenty for fans of psychological drama to chew over and interpret.”
VOYA - Kimberly Paone
Noah is a slight, introspective boy of thirteen, raised by his grandmother after his parents were killed in an automobile accident. Noah has a secret, as does his grandmother: He was once a conjoined twin, having lost his other half during the surgery that separated them. Mademoiselle, Noah's grandmother, is an eccentric, neglectful alcoholic who shows her grandson no affection. But from the outside, both seem to live in a pristine world. When Mademoiselle goes into the hospital for plastic surgery, Nurse Grace, an obese novice in the healthcare profession with her own story of loss and misery, comes to care for Noah. As the days pass, Noah and Grace make tentative steps toward each other, and a trust relationship develops. Both begin a slow journey toward recovery. Orenstein gives readers very memorable characters that are unique and incredibly well fleshed-out; however, the story in which readers find them is quite odd and might even be somewhat off-putting at times. There are several mystery elements that run parallel to Noah's and Grace's individual tales-including a string of serial killings in the neighborhood and the question of Mademoiselle's condition-that keep readers guessing until the end. The concept of the conjoined twin and the survivor's guilt that Noah obviously feels is new in young adult literature, but one wonders if the unusual themes and complexities of this story will overwhelm some teen readers.
VOYA - Mariana Santana
I have already recommended this book to a number of people, and they all want to read it. I told them about some of the scenes in the story and how Noah thinks that the way his grandmother raised him is just fine, but Grace tells a whole different story. From her point of view, the boy is malnourished and skittish. From Noah's point of view, his life was organized and perfect until Grace came into his home. The most compelling aspect of this book is when Grace tells Noah that it is time to face his situation head-on. I loved the way the author wrote this book. It's like seeing what goes on in a young boy's head when he is in denial, and it also plays with your head a bit. I also like the way the author used the tarot cards in the story and on the front cover.
School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up
For most of his 13 years, Noah has lived with the guilt of being the sole survivor of the surgery separating him and his conjoined-at-the-heart twin brother. Helping to fuel his shameful secret is Mademoiselle, his self-absorbed, eccentric grandmother, a retired vaudevillian actress. Noah's guardian since the death of his parents when he was four, she expects absolute perfection in dress and manners. When large, loving Nurse Grace enters his life as caregiver during and after Mademoiselle's face-lift, she finds a pale, anorexic, solitary young boy, starving both physically and emotionally. In alternating chapters, Grace and Noah discuss one another and reveal, to readers though not to each other, the secret losses they have in common. Mademoiselle's dominance is a hovering presence, her death only revealed in the last few pages when Noah finally admits the truth to himself. Adding to the haunting bizarreness of the boy's inner thoughts is the reality of a sniper who is terrorizing the neighborhood and leaving tarot cards at each murder scene. Noah believes this may be his twin, whom he fears is secretly alive and seeking revenge for being sacrificed so that his stronger brother could survive. The psychological layers of the characters as well as the entwining "twins-of-the-heart" theme create endless discussion possibilities, although the story's complexity may prove too much for average or reluctant readers.
—D. Maria LaRoccoCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
In this dreamlike narrative, two love-starved young people connect in the brief time they share. Prissy and underfed, 13-year-old Noah has been raised by his grandmother, Mademoiselle. A former showgirl obsessed with her body and with formulaic courtesies, Mademoiselle has taught Noah to avoid food, human contact and affection. Now, with Mademoiselle gone for a facelift, Noah is in the care of a creature he can barely comprehend: Nurse Grace, who is large, loud and loving. Grace, desperate for connection since the death of her own baby brother, wants to nurture Noah, to fatten him up, to offer him companionship. Noah, on the other hand, wants only to retreat. He obsesses over his conjoined twin brother who died at birth, and thinks of himself as only half a boy. Grace and Noah both narrate the tale in alternating (and often conflicting) chapters, offering painful insight into these two wounded characters. Only as they come to terms with their unfaced grief can they recognize their shared heart. A lyrical, melancholy look at healing and human connections. (Fiction. 13-15)
Booklist (starred review)
“Orenstein’s writing is magic.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“Plenty for fans of psychological drama to chew over and interpret.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
(w) x 7.12(h) x 1.36(d)
1050L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Denise Gosliner Orenstein is the author of three novels and currently holds the position of Director, American University MFA Program in Creative Writing in Washington, D.C. She is also a writing mentor for the PEN American Center Prison Writing Project and a participant in the PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools Program. She lives with her two daughters in Washington, D.C.

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Secret Twin 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Noah is thirteen. He is the only survivor of conjoined twins. When he was just a few weeks old he was surgically separated from his brother. He lived and his brother did not. Noah feels guilty. Why should he have lived while his brother, who he believes is still alive wandering the earth without a home, didn't?

When Noah was four his parents died in a car accident and he has to live with his paternal grandmother. Mademoiselle, which is what Noah calls her, provides a roof over Noah's head but not much else for a growing boy. Her house is freezing cold. It is all white and nothing is out of place. She never hugs or touches him and they eat very little.

Mademoiselle is also an alcoholic. Then she goes to the hospital for a face lift and Nurse Grace comes to take care of Noah. Nurse Grace is the opposite of what Noah has been taught about how polite society should operate. Grace is big, loud, sloppy, and full of love. Grace has a secret, too. Her little brother was killed and she is still suffering from the tragedy.

THE SECRET TWIN takes these two lives and creates a psychological healing between the two of them. It is told from alternate perspectives, first Noah's and then Grace's. We see all the events from both set of eyes.

When I started this book I wasn't thrilled, but as I got into the reading I became enamored with the writing and the story. This is a story of redemption, change, healing, and acceptance. I strongly recommend this book for readers who want to think and be changed themselves.