In this “thought-provoking and engaging” (School Library Journal) debut novel, Sonya Mukherjee shares the story of sisters Clara and Hailey, conjoined twins who are learning what it means to be truly extraordinary.
Seventeen-year-old conjoined twins, Clara and Hailey, have lived in the same small town their entire lives—no one stares at them anymore. But there are cracks in their quiet existence and they’re slowly becoming more apparent. Clara and Hailey are at a crossroads. Clara wants to stay close to home, avoid all attention, and study the night sky. Hailey wants to travel the world, learn from great artists, and dance with mysterious boys. As high school graduation approaches, each twin must untangle her dreams from her sister’s, and figure out what it means to be her own person.
Told in alternating perspectives, this unconventional coming-of-age tale shows how dreams can break your heart—but the love between sisters can mend it.
About the Author
Sonya Mukherjee grew up in California sitting in trees, reading books, and writing stories in her head. She studied English and creative writing at Stanford and San Francisco State University, and went on to work as an editor for a variety of book publishers, magazines, and websites, from The Future of Children to Dirt Rider. Now she lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she spends her time sitting in coffee shops, reading books, and writing stories on her laptop. Gemini is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter @SonyaMukherjee.
Read an Excerpt
About four years ago, when I was thirteen and still prone to crying spells, my mother liked to show off her so-called wisdom by telling me that every teenage girl sometimes feels like a freak of nature. She claimed that every adolescent worries that everyone’s staring at her, and every girl at some point has believed that no one likes her and that she’ll never belong.
And sometimes I would just listen and try to believe her, but then this one time (I guess it was the last time she gave the speech) I said, “And does every teenage girl sometimes feel like she has a super-ugly ninety-pound tumor sticking out of her butt?”
And then the tumor started crying, and I felt pretty bad, but not bad enough to apologize.
That was a long time ago, and I have matured somewhat. I’m nicer to my sister now. Nicer to everyone, I guess, or at least I’m trying. I mean, I’m still pretty angry, but what are you going to do? It’s nobody’s fault, the way things are.
But back then I kind of thought, If I’m so miserable, shouldn’t she be miserable too? I mean, we’re supposed to share everything, right?
We were already sharing the lower end of our spinal column, and sensations in the lower halves of our bodies. We had two totally separate upper halves—two heads, two faces, two sets of arms, the whole works. And for that matter, we also had two full pairs of legs and feet. But we were joined together at the midpoint, in basically a back-to-back position—or butt-to-butt, if you want to get all technical about it. While our stomachs were separate, our guts were, according to the world’s leading medical experts, as tangled together as a vat of discarded Christmas tree lights, and partially fused.
We were two complete, full-size people, with two normal, fully functioning brains; and yet, if she ate too much pizza, we both felt a little unwell. If the doctor touched my foot, Hailey could feel it. And if I called myself a hopeless, unlovable freak, well, I supposed Hailey could feel that, too. But only if I said it out loud.
• • •
And so it was that when we learned a new boy would be entering our senior class, and every girl in our tiny rural school started speculating and gossiping about him—finally, a fresh boyfriend prospect, for the first time in more than a year!—I refrained from pointing out to Hailey that this was hardly any concern of ours.
Not that it was easy to hold my tongue. Sunday afternoon, the day before he was supposed to show up, we were sitting back-to-back on our bed, cross-legged, our laptops open in front of us. I was trying to concentrate on calculus, but she kept bursting out with these random nonsense questions, like, “So, what color do you think his eyes will be?” or “Do you think he’ll speak any second languages?”
And I just kept laughing at her, but it made me want to scream, because it was like Hailey had no idea who she was. When I looked in the mirror, I saw what anyone else would see: a bizarre eight-limbed creature that probably shouldn’t have survived the womb. But Hailey acted as if, through a strange mental glitch, she could look in the mirror and see some lovely, fascinating nymphet. And this hallucination was so real to her, she thought everyone else could see it too. Even boys.
I’m not saying I hadn’t thought about them. It was hard not to, when at any given moment half our school was either making out in the hallways or discussing the latest school dance. Out here in entertainment-forsaken Bear Pass, school dances were the second-most-popular social events, surpassed only by hanging out at the Taco Bell parking lot with pilfered beers and cigarettes.
So yeah, sometimes I would fantasize about a European exchange student showing up, brilliant and witty, cheerfully amused by our small-town high jinks, with a mind as open as the night sky. I guessed Hailey had her own version of the fantasy (less cheerfully amused, more brooding and dangerous), but even if both versions showed up, so what?
Seriously, who do you think would be the best boyfriend for a girl sharing part of her spinal column with her sister? Be honest.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Hailey and Clara are conjoined twins, attached at the lower spine. Historically, people like them have been turned into circus acts or freak shows, and these girls, who in every other way are normal teenagers in their senior year, have to overcome all the fear, curiosity, and disgust that surrounds them. I think one of the best things I can say about Sonya Mukherjee's amazing work is that often, I forgot the characters were conjoined twins. The author dragged me right into Clara and Hailey's heads as they discussed liking boys and thinking of college, and then, over and over, it felt like a shock when I was reminded how they shared blood, body parts, and could never be in a different place without the other. This book beautifully explores what it means to be an individual, and for these girls, who contemplate the possibly deadly choice to surgically separate, the novel questions the most important things about being human -- marriage, having children, selfish pursuits vs. sacrificing for others -- and how these aspects of the human experience differ for those who are born single and those who are conjoined.
This book was so incredibly good. I’m in awe of Hailey and Clara. Even though they live with one of the rarest human conditions, I felt like they were so relatable and understandable. The glimpses into their daily life were so well described that I could picture their movements and how they needed to adapt to fit in with the rest of the world. I think anyone who’s felt that they’re “not normal” or an outsider, will be able to relate to the girls as well. This was such a beautiful, emotional story, and I truly cared for Sonya Mukherjee’s characters. I didn’t want the book to end, but for me, the ending was perfect.
Sonya Mukherjee's has penned a heart-wrenching debut novel, with writing and heart that has left me speechless. GEMINI is a story of conjoined twins but Mukherjee effortlessly (seemingly) creates these two teens as wholly unique in their physical and emotion desires. Clara and Hailey are destined for different things, but they are conjoined at the base of their spinal columns. During their senior year they are already adjusting to the idea of attending a small-town college where their parents teach. The plan has been set by their parents, who will rely on the free tuition and the safety they’ve created in small-town life—one which limits stares and gossip when it comes to their daughters. But Hailey wants to travel the world, see everything. Clara wants to go to outer space. Mukherjee does not pull any punches when she examines each girl’s desires, and the limitations that hold them back. This is an important book about dreams, and the pull they have at our individual hearts. And love, the tremendous sacrifices we make for those we care for most deeply. This is a beautifully crafted novel that is wholly original and so moving. I am thrilled that it is in the world. Highly recommend.
Source: earc from Simon teen via Edelweiss Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC (advanced review copy). I am not paid for this review, and my opinions in this review are mine, and are not effected by the book being free. I wanted to read Gemini because I think that conjoined twins are fascinating, especially the ones that are different from each other, or have separate interests and goals. They were once the same cell, identical twins that the cells didn't split, so the DNA is the same, but something in them and their upbringing and their own minds diverge. Hailey and Clara are indeed very separate identities with different thought processes and ways of looking at life. Hailey is more upbeat, she has pink hair and a tattoo. Clara is more practical and down to earth. It is a neat perspective because they have their own routines and life this way is normal for them. They gave daily challenges including physical limitations but also respecting their sister who is their constant companion. What one wants to do, sometimes the other has to be bored, when one talks to a friend or a boy, the other cant give them time or escape if they don't like the person. It wasn't what I expected but still had its good points.
Sonya Mukherjee's Gemini is a book about conjoined twins that portrays them as two teenage girls wrestling with their identities, the end of high school, and their future - just like every other high school senior. The issue of them being conjoined just exacerbates the struggle. Hailey and Clara have different interests and different dreams. Hailey is an artist, and she longs to leave their small mountain town and go out and see the world (first stop: art school). Clara is more reserved. She's obsessed with astronomy, and she doesn't like to be stared at, so she'd like to stay in Bear Pass forever. Everyone in their small town has know them their whole lives, so the novelty has worn off. Their mother has done an excellent job preventing photos or videos of them leaking out to the public and educating everyone on their condition. They have some great friends who see them as individuals, but the majority of people do not. It's like being a twin to the extreme because they cannot get away from each other. They have to wake up in the middle of the night to even have a private thought. I cannot even image, and I am an identical twin. This book was very well written. I loved the alternating voices of the two girls. The issues are fairly typical for a contemporary YA book, but the conjoined twin angle was SO interesting. The parents are present and realistic even while being a little annoying at times. This was a great read. http://www.momsradius.com/2016/07/book-review-gemini-ya.html
Gemini is an unconventional story of sisters at a crossroads. Conjoined twins Clara and Hailey want different things after graduation. Hailey wants to spread her wings and see the world while Clara wants to stay tucked into the safety of their small town where people know them. The book switches POVs between the sisters, each making compelling cases for what they should do next. GEMINI takes a thoughtful look at sisterhood, growing up, and finding yourself. I can’t wait to see what Sonya Mukerjee does next because this is definitely an author to watch!
Shy Clara yearns to see what Earth looks like from outer space. Pink-haired in-your-face Hailey wants to further explore her artistic side. But the two sisters face limitations that none (or very, very few) of this book's readers ever will. They're conjoined twins. Their parents made careful choices early in their lives, before either of them could make them for themselves--not electing to perform surgery that could have significantly lessened their quality of life, moving to middle of nowhere Bear Pass, CA, where the media was less likely to ever intrude -- but now in their senior year, Hailey and Clara are facing their future head-on. Looming college applications, a cute new boy in town, and a Sadie Hawkins dance start to bring up questions the girls never had, and yearnings they'd ignored or suppressed -- yearnings that only become more powerful, more palpable. Their connection to each other is strong, but is it enough to sustain a life--a full life? As I read Mukherjee's captivating debut novel, I quickly realized I had to reframe my expectations. After a few pages in, I realized I had *no idea* what it would mean to be a conjoined twin. And admittedly, I found my mind running through the logistics-- all of which Mukherjee covers in the first person POV. Simply put, I can't imagine forgetting these characters anytime soon. The questions they grapple with are timeless questions that all teens face, except in this case, they are magnified a thousand fold. A most impressive, gripping story about sisterhood and life-altering decisions.