Minerva and Keira King's fifteen minutes of fame came on the day they were born. One-in-a-million twins, not because they were born in the back of their daddy's Cessna on a airstrip in Forks, Washington, not because they were born six weeks early or ten minutes apart. They made the news because Minni had the pale skin and red hair of their father's family and Keira had the dark skin and curly hair of her mother's.
Sundee T. Frazier's The Other Half of My Heart starts on the twins' eleventh birthday and explores the concept of feeling different from a unique angle. This middle reader coming-of-age story focuses on Minni and how she wishes she were more like her twin and her mother.
As all preteens, Minni sees the world mostly as it affects her. She is shier, more bookish, and less exuberant than Keira and relies on her sister to get her through social situations. When she takes the time to see how strangers sometimes treat Keira differently, Minni usually ends up feeling guilty that she can't muster the courage to stand up for what is right.
All this changes for Minni when the girls visit their grandmother Johnson to compete in the Miss Black Pearl Preteen of America pageant. From the moment they land in South Carolina, Minni notices that the ratio of black to white is much more balanced than it is the Pacific Northwest. She also notices that Keira seems to be separating from her.
When she has to prove her blackness to be allowed to enter the pageant with her twin, Minni begins her journey to self-discovery and self-identity. With the help of her grandmother's neighbor, Minni learns that it is up to her to decide who she will be--black or white, a leader or a follower--and that no matter what, she will always have a sister and will never look like her twin.
Frazier balances out the tougher aspects of Minni's story with humor, love, and a touch of civil rights history. The novel would make an excellent family listen or read because it provides a basis for good discussion. Themes include the nature of families, being different, accepting others, sibling love, and pushing yourself to do better while learning to accept yourself for who you are.
I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Listening Library, 7 hr, 55 min) read by Bahni Turpin, whose characterizations--from the young twins to the southern grandmother--are believable and engaging. My full audio review will appear on the AudioFile website and/or in an upcoming issue of the magazine.
Give it to me quickly: Minni King, a biracial twin struggles with self-identity in an accessible coming-of-age story; recommended for the entire family, but perfect for middle reader book clubs.
To learn more about the award-winning Sundee T. Frazier and her work, be sure to visit her website. This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.
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