Twin sisters Ava and Mira Goodwin are on the run from a fascist state to avoid death in “The Rule of One,” written by UT alumnae Ashley and Leslie Saunders.
In the novel, Ava Goodwin has managed to make it through adolescence with a crazy secret: She’s two people, Mira and Ava Goodwin. The novel’s title refers to a fictional policy put into place by the fascist government of a dystopian Texas to deal with the climate crisis and overpopulation. Each family is only allotted one child. Because Mira and Ava are identical, they have spent their lives pretending to be one person. When their secret is discovered and their father is captured, they’re forced to travel north to avoid bandits and an oppressive police state.
Mira’s character is fascinating because it develops around being exactly like Ava, but she also preserves her own identity in the fleeting moments she has alone. For a few passages in the book, she wonders about her identity. By the end, Mira is pretty much the same person as she was at the beginning. Her identity is based on her struggle for survival and love for her family. The story would benefit from a closer examination of what makes each sister unique.
I chose to read this novel because, as a twin, a story about twins written by twins seemed like something I could connect to. For the most part, the sisters’ relationship was enjoyable. They loved each other, were annoyed with each other and laughed with each other. It was a portrait of a loving friendship between sisters. The twins’ relationship with their dad is just as loving. Their father is stern, but he tries to safely raise his daughters in a dangerous world.
One of the breaks from the tropes of young adult fiction was that romance was not central to the plot. It was not about two women defined by their relationship to a boy, but two women defined by their relationship with each other. It is refreshing to get away from stories where the plot is “he loves me, he loves me not” for 300 pages. Instead, the book provides a touching and realistic look at sisters who love each other.
The fascist state the twins must avoid seems eerily believable. It is easy to see how a real-life government might slowly turn into the government depicted in the book. The most striking characteristics of the government in “The Rule of One” are features every reader would be familiar with, such as government surveillance and police brutality.
The writing becomes too dramatic in some moments and takes the reader out of the story. Sometimes, the word choices clash with the first-person narration of the novel. While it is interesting to climb inside of these characters’ heads and see how the twins react differently to situations, I have yet to hear a teenager say, “I detect a camera.”
“The Rule of One” offers a loving look at the relationship between two sisters against the backdrop of a totalitarian government. While the writing is sometimes too ornamental, the book tells a heartwarming story highlighting the relationship between twins that transcends time.
If you like young adult novels, loving families, a story about sisterhood, a believable dystopia or just a trek through the near-future United States, then you’ll like “The Rule of One” by Ashley and Leslie Saunders.