Score: 95/100 (9.5 out of 10)
Am I my brother's keeper? That question reverberates in the background of this enthralling, mesmerizing story. This novel follows two identical twin brothers, Gavin and Devon, who couldn't be more unlike each other in terms of personalities. In fact, Gavin comes up with the creative analogy that they're “mirror twins”--opposite or backwards of one another like objects in a mirror. This also gives the book its title.
Although brotherhood is at the center of the book, other themes and topics are also prevalent including family, individualism, mental illness, crime, addiction, and even (believe it or not) entrepreneurship. There's even a travel aspect to this book since much of the story takes place in a very exotic and exciting place. More on that later.
Whenever you're dealing with twins in a work of fiction, one of two things is inevitably going to happen: their twin-power is going to allow them to have an almost supernatural advantage over opponent and they're going to work together to solve a problem OR the two are going to become mortal enemies due to differences in ideology. This is more of the latter.
We can think of some of our favorite twins in fiction—Vash & Knives (Trigun), Man in Black & Jacob (Lost), and Solid Snake & Liquid Snake (Metal Gear Solid)—and they all have a few things in common: they strongly dislike, despise, or even hate each other yet they seemingly can't exist without the other. There's something about brothers, especially twin brothers, that adds an extra layer of emotion to a conflict.
This book is frustrating, but we mean that in a good way. It was frustrating because of how tense it was, and tension is very good for fiction. Also, it's not frustrating because the heroes make “stupid decisions,” it's that they make smart decisions yet bad things happen to them anyway.
Our main protagonist is Gavin, the good, level-headed, humble, yet far less flashy brother. Gavin may suffer from a kind of inferiority complex since he is always treated as being lesser than his twin both physically and intellectually. This is largely the fault of their dad, Tony, who has his own set of issues including likely abusive tendencies toward the children and his wife. Gavin is smaller than Devon and called “little brother” despite only being 10 minutes younger. It is kind of adorable that they excuse Gavin's smaller size by saying that Devon ate all the nutrients in the womb. At the same time, this does set a precedence for a reoccurring theme: Devon's parasitic nature. Devon even refers to his own little brother as food, calling him “little Twinkie.” This really goes to show how superior Devon feels to Gavin. While Gavin goes to Culinary Institute of America to become a chef, Devon goes to Harvard to presumably become the greatest and the smartest at anything and everything he wants. However, while Gavin stays on the straight and narrow, Devon falls into a life of recklessness, addiction, and crime.
Devon, in a lot of ways, is the main villain and antagonist of this book, even with Tony and the mob involved. Devon is usually the one directly bringing danger and despair into the lives of Gavin and their family.
This might be the most accurate and realistic character work we've ever read. Both Gavin and Devon seem like real people. Even the events and actions are random and unpredictable like real-life is. Here's a hint: anything can happen to anyone at any time, and any character can die at any time. But beside that, Devon's mental illness is handled with so much tact and care.
Devon has what's called Malignant Narcissistic Personality Disorder, possibly caused by a car accident and physical trauma earlier in life. In addition to that, his organs are on the opposite side of his body from where they should be. To keep him alive and allow or surgical work, Gavin used to have to donate blood constantly. Devon's Narcissistic Disorder is apparent and clear throughout the whole book, dominating the way he acts and the way he views the world (and Gavin). He'll often say that he's better, smarter, stronger, and “knows more” than everyone else. He also often belittles everyone else. However, it is tragic to think what kind of person he would've been if he'd been healthy.
Are you born bad or are we made?
Well, you could definitely make an argument that Devon made a lot of bad choices, yet a lot were made before he ever opened his eyes or spoke a word.
It's hard to sympathize with him because he's such a nasty, unlikable person, yet a part of you can't help but hope for a resolution between the two brothers.
One of the most beautiful things that happens in this book involves two abandoned and dying puppies that Gavin comes into possession of, Patches and Beggar. Incredibly, they parallel the two main characters, also brothers who are damaged both inside and out by circumstances.
Later on, the book ventures to Hawaii on the island of Kauai, and we couldn't help but be impressed by the amount of research that the author put into doing the location justice. Everything from the names, the language, the locations, the culture were spot-on.
All in all, we can highly recommend this book. It has a slow start, but it's worth it in the end.
Check it out on Amazon!