3.8 15
by Marcy Dermansky

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On the eve of their thirteenth birthday, identical twins Chloe and Sue agree to get matching tattoos to prove their bond is stronger than DNA. So begins Twins, Marcy Dermansky's comic and disturbingly honest debut novel, the extraordinary story of two blond, beautiful, and tormented twin sisters trying to survive adolescence -- and each other.

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On the eve of their thirteenth birthday, identical twins Chloe and Sue agree to get matching tattoos to prove their bond is stronger than DNA. So begins Twins, Marcy Dermansky's comic and disturbingly honest debut novel, the extraordinary story of two blond, beautiful, and tormented twin sisters trying to survive adolescence -- and each other.

Told in alternating voices, Twins introduces two new unforgettable heroines on the verge. The obsessively defiant Sue, four minutes younger, resents and idolizes her seemingly perfect twin, Chloe. All Chloe wants, however, is to please her sister and -- only if Sue will allow it -- find a friend of her own. Neglected by their wealthy parents and cynical older brother, burdened by a loving dog they can't properly care for, and bewildered by a complex social universe they somehow don't fit into, Chloe and Sue are left to fend for themselves.

Over the course of five years, Chloe and Sue overcome breakups, unhappy Hawaiian vacations, unicycle lessons, eating disorders, pill abuse, and their first painful explorations of love and sex. They desperately seek comfort in unusual places, choosing often inappropriate friends and lovers, including the daring Lisa Markman, an aspiring fashion model; her famous father, a professional basketball player; James, a good-natured slacker; and a young Indian writer named Smita. Navigating this hilarious and heartbreaking world, the girls must overcome apathy and despair to return to each other.

Funny, affecting, and told with raw understanding, Twins brings us into the wounded hearts of audacious teenagers, where the line between hatred and love is blurred and where everyone -- including the family pet -- is vulnerable to devotion. Marcy Dermansky's heart-stopping debut displays comedy and redemption in the face of suburban despair.

Editorial Reviews

Polly Shulman
Writers love identical twins. What tidier way to show different sides of one character, explore possible life paths or test the limits of nature and nurture? Dermansky does all that, but her twins (who take turns at narrating) transcend the gimmick in a brainy, emotionally sophisticated bildungsroman-for-two.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Two teenagers struggle with identity and self-determination in Dermansky's entertaining debut. To the casual observer, twins Chloe and Sue are exactly the same-even their father mixes them up sometimes. Of course, Chloe understands that they're very different people, but Sue wants nothing more than to be one with Chloe, whom she's convinced is prettier, smarter and nicer. The chapters alternate between the voices of Sue and Chloe, moving quickly but seamlessly through their high school years with their attendant dramas and tragedies. It feels primarily like Sue's story, though, because it is her desire to hold on to her perfect intimacy with Chloe that sets the plot in motion. And it is Sue's voice-variously deadpan, yearning, and frequently repetitive to good effect-that carries most of the novel's emotional weight. (Though Chloe has her moments: "I did everything for Sue. She needed me as if I were the oxygen she breathed, but she didn't understand what it cost me.") While some aspects of the tale seem unlikely (the twins' blithely neglectful parents and extremely generous friends, for example), this is balanced by an overarching fable-like quality to this moving and well-written story of two girls learning to accept who they are. Agent, Alex Glass. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
We've all heard stories about twins who are polar opposites. In her debut novel, Dermansky injects this seemingly tired premise with dark humor and raw power. At the novel's outset, the twins have just turned 13: Chloe wants to have friends, do well in school, and be a normal teenager; Sue wants to possess Chloe fully and uses increasingly destructive means to keep her twin at her side. Through their teens, the girls eventually find their own paths, in very surprising ways. Owing to the narrative's alternating chapters narrated by each twin, the reader's allegiance shifts with the girls' perspectives. Dermansky has created a fascinating set of characters, including the twins' usually absent and astonishingly selfish parents. Her portrayal of the difficulty of growing up and of raising children in today's world rings true. Recommended for all public libraries.-Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Dermansky's first novel embraces and transcends the coming of age genre by overlapping the stories of twin sisters. Adolescent twins Sue and seconds-older Chloe must pull away from each other, at least temporarily, before they can grow up. Cute blonde, identical daughters of workaholic, largely absent parents, they have spent their childhoods dependent on each other while ignoring their kindly older brother Daniel. At 13, Sue, smaller and less personable, goes to desperate lengths, including bulimia and tattoos, to hang on to her special twin relationship with Chloe. But Chloe, seemingly better adjusted, yearns to create an independent, more conventional life. Chloe becomes friends with popular, sexually predatory Lisa Markman, whose father is a retired basketball star. Angry and jealous, Sue breaks Lisa's nose and bullies Chloe unmercifully through ninth grade. At fourteen, as their parents separate and drift even further out of their lives and Daniel heads off to college, Chloe begins to play basketball under Mr. Markman's guidance. Jealous of both friend and father, Lisa shifts her allegiance to Sue who takes on a rebel outlaw identity in sharp contrast to Chloe's jock persona. But then another shift occurs when Sue runs away to stay with Daniel's college girlfriend. Befriended by the mysterious, beneficent Smita, Sue blooms into a healthy, creative high school senior. At home alone, cut off from Mr. Markman's benign and fatherly support by her own father's legal threats, Chloe begins to slide into Sue's old identity. She quits basketball, takes a slacker boyfriend and nearly self-destructs until Sue reaches out. Chloe returns to basketball and both girls are able to see themselvesmore clearly together and apart. Dermansky gives her misfits real dignity and avoids psycho-social cliches-even the screwy parents are oddly believable-while she neatly captures the girls' suburban high school world with every telling detail. Sometimes despairing, sometimes blackly humorous, always engrossing and thoroughly original. A wonderful debut.
Village Voice
“Dermansky excels at depicting extreme emotional states and how we rationalize them.”
Huntsville Times
“Raw, extraordinary...A dark, heartbreaking tale about adolescents trying to survive.”
“A beguiling story of the powerful ties between identical twins… Dermansky has crafted a memorable novel.”
Frederick Barthelme
“A startlingly beautiful love story… A thrill to read… The most detailed, disturbing, and loveable oddball romance you’ll ever read.”
Jerry Stahl
“Twins is spectacular, weird, extraordinarily real, and funny in ways they don’t have names for.”
Janice Eidus
“Dermansky is a lyrical, gifted, and original writer.…With a style that’s extremely accessible and lots of fun.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.01(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Novel

Chapter One


I wanted tattoos for our thirteenth birthday. Chloe didn't. Chloe refused. I told her I did not know what I would do if she kept saying no.

"Tattoos are dirty," Chloe said.

Chloe was four minutes older. She was an eighth of an inch taller. She was smarter. She was prettier. We were identical twins, but Chloe had turned out better. She was the better twin, she had the better name, and I was desperate to hold on to her. Horrifying girls like Lisa Markman were inviting Chloe to their parties and offering her cigarettes and beer and birth control.

My childhood had passed in a golden bubble of happiness. I adored Chloe and Chloe adored me. We didn't need our parents; we didn't need our brother or friends or parties or separate bedrooms. Chloe and Sue.Our hair was blond, our eyes were blue. For twelve perfect years, Chloe and I lived and breathed each other.We took baths in the same bathtub, shared the same rubber bath toys. Now Chloe took constant showers, all by herself.

We needed tattoos.

"I won't," Chloe said. "You can't make me. No one in the eighth grade has a tattoo."

She was right. No one did. We were from the suburbs. I hated every single person in the eighth grade. They were all morons, out to steal my sister. Chloe was much too good. She was too eager to please.

I sat on my bed, staring at Chloe, waiting for her to crack. Chloe wanted her own room, but there were no extra rooms in the house. It was a st upid idea. We were meant to shar e a r oom. We were identical twins. We had no secrets. Chloe picked up a hairbrush and started brushing her hair. Shewas obsessed with being clean. Chloe was always taking showers, smoothing her hair, washing her face, washing her hands, looking at herself in the mirror.

"You want to be like everybody else," I said. "But they're all boring."

"Who is boring?"


"Everyone?" Chloe said.

I reached for her hand. Chloe laid down her hairbrush on the bed and squeezed my fingers.

"There is no one like us," I told her.

"Everyone is boring?" Chloe repeated.

I picked up Chloe's brush and threw it against the wall.

Chloe bit her lip, looking down at her hands.

"Our tattoos won't be dirty," I said.

I'd explained it to her. I had found someone who didn't care that we were underage. I had paid in advance. Everything was planned. Our tattoos would be simple. Chloe would get a SUE tattoo. Mine would say CHLOE. If Chloe ever got lost or made friends with someone who was not me or had sex with some strange, awful man, she could never forget who we were. Who we belonged with. It wasn't enough that we looked the same. Chloe could put a rhinestone barrette in her hair and she became someone else. She would get upset with me when I put a barrette in my hair too.

Chloe looked at her brush. It had left a dark mark on the pale pink wall.

"I can't get a tattoo," she said.

"You have to," I said.

Chloe shook her head.

"We could get o ur ears do uble-pierced," she whispered.

"No," I said. "Tattoos. It's all planned. It's already paid for."

Chloe crossed the room, picked up her brush, and started brushing her hair again. She was so beautiful. Wherever we went, people stared at Chloe, they stared at us. I knew that I looked like her. Technically I was beautiful too. But when I wasn't next to Chloe, I didn't feel right. I tripped on my shoelaces. My hair tangled easily.

"Three letters," I said. "To make sure we are never apart. No matter where we go. You won't do that for me?"

"It's enough to be twins," Chloe said. "It's practically tattooed on our faces. We look the same. Why isn't that enough?"

We had been having the same conversation for days. Chloe wanted friends, boyfriends. She wanted to blink her eyes and imagine me gone. I sat down on the floor and cried. I cried until my chest hurt and then I coughed. Snot dripped down my face and my head started to ache. Chloe sat down next to me and put her hand on her own head, like it hurt her too. For a while, she did nothing, just watched me cry. I'd blink through my tears, wipe the snot on to my sleeve, and watch her, watching me.

"Sue," she said. "Why do you do this?"

And then Chloe wrapped her arms around me. She rocked me like I was her little baby. I was miserable, but I felt wonderful, rocking. We rocked back and forth. Chloe and I were miserable together. It was the middle of the night. I could hear our older brother, Daniel, in his room down the hall, strumming chords on his guitar.

"We are underage," Chloe whispered. She kissed the top of my head. Our age didn't matter. The appointments were made. The tattoo guy had taken my money and told me how to come in the back door. I had been slipping twenty-dollar bills from my father's wallet for months.

One day, Chloe would be glad. One day we would be old, we would be thirty, and Chloe would thank me.

Chloe's interest in other girls was temporary. It was adolescence. The tattoos, I knew, would keep us safe.

"We could get a compu ter," Chloe said. "Or leather boots."

"No," I said.

I stretched across Chloe's lap and reached over to open her schoolbag. I took out her pencil case and removed a freshly sharpened pencil. Chloe liked her pencils sharp. She loved multiplechoice tests, filling in the small circles with all the right answers.

"What are you doing?" she said.

I stuck the sharp tip of the pencil into my arm. A bubble of blood spurted from the spot. . . .

A Novel
. Copyright � by Marcy Dermansky. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are saying about this

Jerry Stahl
“Twins is spectacular, weird, extraordinarily real, and funny in ways they don’t have names for.”
Janice Eidus
“Dermansky is a lyrical, gifted, and original writer.…With a style that’s extremely accessible and lots of fun.”
Frederick Barthelme
“A startlingly beautiful love story… A thrill to read… The most detailed, disturbing, and loveable oddball romance you’ll ever read.”

Meet the Author

Marcy Dermansky is a MacDowell Fellow and the winner of the 2002 Smallmouth Press Andre Dubus Novella Award and the 1999 Story magazine’s Carson McCullers short story prize. Her stories have been published in numerous literary journals, including McSweeney’s, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Indiana Review. Dermansky is a film critic for and lives in Astoria, New York.

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Twins 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was good from the first page all the way to the end. It was like watching a movie I could not put it down. I can't wait till she comes out with another book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Twins' is guessed it, twin sisters Sue and Chloe. Chloe is four minutes older, and in Sue's mind, Chloe received all the advantages from the start. The story follows them through their high school careers..starting when they are 13 years old and get matching tatoos, to their senior year of high school as they are both contemplating college. More than just the story of sisters, this is a story packed full of emotions. Aside from the love and devotion shared between the sisters, we experience several of the not-so-good emotions with them as well: lonliness, frustration, envy, hatred..some are typical of teenage angst, others are downright disturbing. We're along through the rides as the sisters struggle to discover themselves and understand the world they live in. We're there through heartache, eating disorders, sexual discoveries and violence. Nothing is held back in 'Twins.' As a result, its somewhat disconcerting. It's raw and edgy in its own right, and its entertaining at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed it from the first page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am twelve years old. I dont know if I should read this. Im going to turn thirteen in four months so would it be okay for me?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was fantastic! I could not put my nook down! The author cleverly weaves the classic twin myth (good twin vs evil twin) in with the modern pitfalls facing all young women. Definitly a must-buy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok, fine with me.
kelsey_callaghan More than 1 year ago
Twins by Marcy Dermansky was an excellent book to read. I think I enjoyed the book so much because I am a teenager! These sisters, Chloe and Sue couldn't be any more different from each other. Chloe is the good girl who has hygiene, brushes her hair, works hard at school and stays physically fit. Sue is the total opposite of Chloe and rarely brushes her hair, doesn't shower often enough, has her own stench, and lacks in effort towards school. The book starts out with the thirteen year old twins talking in their room. Sue suggests they both should get tattoos of each other's names written into their backs. Chloe explains how dirty the procedure to get a tattoo is while Sue continues to beg. Since Chloe is such a nice pushover, she decides to get the tattoo on the back of her neck to please Sue. From that point on Chloe is run and forced by Sue to do everything! Sue is uncomfortable with the fact that Chloe is prettier, smarter, cleaner, and skinnier. Sue forces Chloe to eat ice cream or more pieces of pizza so they will always be the same weight and look the same. Eventually Sue gives up on trying to stay like her identical twin and runs away to stay with her brother's girlfriend who's away at college. While Sue runs off and discovers who she is, Chloe is staying home alone. Chloe and Sue's parents have gotten their own place in Manhattan and rarely come home. Chloe decided she's tired of being the "smart pretty girl" and starts her rebellion phase with allowing friends and her boyfriend to live with her in the house. Away at college, Sue has a realization that she shouldn't strive to be perfect like her twin, but original in a healthy way. The sisters both love each other, but want their own lives as well.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is nothing like bridget jones' diary or the shopaholic series which i expected it to be. it is much more dark and serious but still deffenetly intriguing. the story changes when you're not expecting it to which kept me hooked. it's a good read... but probably not a beach read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Critics are sometimes told by their readers, 'You have a big mouth, writing reviews that trash other people's work. Do you think you can do better?' The statement is, of course, absurd. Are we not allowed to call a New York Yankees pitcher a bum without getting on the mound ourselves to prove our superiority? Still, sometimes, not often, a critic shows an ability to do better than some of the creative people she¿s panned. Marcy Dermansky, a writer whose gracefully articulated film reviews appear on the prestigious medium, can do more than simply criticize the work of others. Dermansky's new book, 'Twins,¿ captures the torments of adolescence¿the jealousies, the sexual experimentation, conflicted attitudes toward school, the food hangups, the relationships with self-absorbed parents: in short, the difficulties of growing up and separating from your roots in order to establish your own personhood. That the two principal characters in the novel, Chloe and Sue, are identical twins is no accident. When individuals share the same DNA, it¿s natural for them to nurse intense rivalries If one 16-year-old, Chloe, excels in basketball, actually trained by a kind fellow who was a high-scorer with the New York Knicks, we understand the frustration of sister Sue, who compares herself unfavorably to her sib in every way. If Chloe is more outgoing, a little prettier, and better able to attract the attention of others, then Sue is confined to the hell of a slow, internal burn. Perpetually in Chloe¿s shadow, Sue can scarcely be blamed for clinging to Chloe, to entreat the young woman with cries of you-and-me-against-the-world, OK? The story is laced throughout with humor. Sue teaches a course in Bulimia 101: ¿You lean over, put your finger down your throat, fast, and it comes.¿ Her views of high school sound familiar enough: ¿School was a waste of time. I hated school more than I hated Chloe. The kids sucked, the teachers sucked, the homework sucked.¿ As the young people progress in age, grades and extra-curricular sexual adventurism, you¿ll inevitably decide which kid you like better: the grandiose Chloe or the more average Sue. To achieve closure, Dermansky skillfully, without a hint of contrivance, does not allow Sue to maintain a dependency on her more flamboyant sister. During their eighteenth year, Sue and Chloe are far different people than they were at twelve. By the conclusion of this goofy, poignant, and elegantly finessed debut novel, you¿ll have changed a bit yourself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
its a little different and i don't like it one bit..the cover's the most interesting thing about it!