Identical twins Ella and Maddy are involved in a horrible wreck, and when Ella comes to, she cannot remember who she is until her sister's boyfriend Alex calls her Maddy. Confused and upset, Ella is sure she is the social butterfly her sister was instead of the bookish artist she is in reality. Even after the awful truth is forced upon her--she's Ella, not Maddy--Ella cannot imagine breaking everyone's heart by taking Maddy away from them. In an instant, she decides she must *be* Maddy, to give her dead sister the life she would never have, to give her parents the twin she is sure they would have preferred to live. She will put aside her intellect, her artistic ability, herself, forever, because she cannot overcome her guilt. It doesn't take long for her to realize, however, that being an identical twin might mean that no one can physically see the differences in the sisters, but that doesn't mean their lives were anywhere near similar, and Maddy had secrets all her own.
When you first think of this premise, it seems a bit far-fetched. How could parents not know their own daughter? But a couple of things made me realize it could actually happen. Anyone who knows identical twins--truly identical twins--knows there are moments you have to stop and think...Which one is this? Especially in moments of high stress, it's plausible. The second reason I could believe this was the case a few years ago when unrelated girls were in a van wreck and two entire families did not realize they were wrong about who had survived. So, with a family that is just happy to have one daughter alive, it might be easy to overlook changes in behavior and confusion in actions. Going with this idea, I fell for this story hook, line, and sinker.
There is something about Ella's voice, her struggles and her conscience, that pulled me in from the start. My heart was literally broken for her, especially for thinking her parents would have preferred Maddy to live. In such a traumatic event, Ella only wants to fix what she thinks she can. Of course, her choice leaves her best friend, Josh, utterly devastated, and her torment just increases when she begins to realize that Maddy wasn't who she thought she was in lots of ways. Is it too late to fix things? How can she go on?
I was emotionally wrapped up in this story from the first pages, and the author does such a good job of showing the complex relationship between twins who seem to be polar opposites in everything except looks. I was impressed in how she covered the bases so that it was easy for the paramedics, the medical staff, and the friends and family could believe it was Maddy who survived. Ella is a heartbreaking character; she's a good person who is nearly crippled by guilt and her own expectations. I loved how she came to realize that things might not be what she'd assumed, and that there were layers to her sister she'd never considered. I rarely feel so strongly about a book, but this one just grabbed me with its unusual premise and its heartfelt story. I totally loved it and can highly recommend it.