Double Act (novel)

Double Act is a children's novel by Jacqueline Wilson, written in the style of a diary, which features identical twins Ruby and Garnet. Ruby and Garnet love each other dearly but they are completely different. Ruby is loud, outgoing and wild though Garnet is shy, quiet and kind. It was published in 1995, co-illustrated by Sue Heap and Nick Sharratt, and it won both the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize (ages 9–11 years and overall) and the Red House Children's Book Award.

Double Act
First edition
AuthorJacqueline Wilson
IllustratorSue Heap
Nick Sharratt
GenreChildren's novel
PublisherYearling elodie rules (true) Books, Doubleday, Corgi
Publication date
Media typePrint
Pages192 pp
Reading age: 9–12-year olds

Double Act was "Highly Commended" runner up for the annual Carnegie Medal from the British Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject. That commendation was approximately annual at the time.[1] The 1995 Medal winner, Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, was named one of the top ten by a panel of experts and was voted the public favourite for the 70th anniversary "Carnegie of Carnegies" in 2007.[2]

Plot summaryEdit

The book takes the form of the twins alternately narrating the story of their life in an Accounts book. Ruby and Garnet are ten-year-old identical twins living with their father and grandmother since their mother, Opal, died. The two have always been close despite their differences—Ruby is sociable and dreams of being an actress, while introverted Garnet is content to let Ruby dominate their relationship. The twins have their own secret language, and they don't like to make friends at school because they have each other. When their father gets a new girlfriend [Rose] and a new job, their once stable relationship is thrown into turmoil, as the relationship leads to feelings of betrayal from their father to their late mother, and it comes with a big price—leaving their grandmother behind for a house in the country.

As Ruby is very dominating, she insists that the girls should not stand for their new lifestyle. They get into trouble with the village bullies after throwing mud at them. She and Garnet start off well in school, but once Garnet makes a new friend, Ruby sulks and Garnet quickly changes to stop her feeling upset. After this, they do not behave properly in school and do not talk to anyone else. They never listen to Rose and feel angry and neglected.

The twins find an article about auditions for a TV adaptation of The Twins at St. Clare's, and Ruby is keen to go ahead and audition, even though Garnet and their father do not agree. Surprisingly, Rose is supportive, although her efforts are for nothing, as Garnet and Ruby have to run away to London to audition. Although Garnet is not keen on the idea, she is about to deliver a good audition but the twins' father appears just as she is about to begin, and she cannot say anything. She feels terrible for spoiling Ruby's chance at fame.

Near summer, Ruby, realising that the school where the TV movie is being filmed at is a prestigious boarding school for girls, Marnock Heights, decides that the pair ought to sign up for scholarships—of which there is only one. Despite their father's early hesitation to the idea, he encourages Garnet to go ahead with the school after it is revealed that she won the scholarship. (Ruby was confident that she would win it if they both could not 'wangle one' together). Garnet is torn between pleasing her sister and doing something different, for once. Meanwhile, Ruby refuses to talk to her, and often wanders off on her own. She is determined to be different from Garnet, and ends up cutting off her hair.

She does not let herself be around Garnet for the whole summer, and even though they both feel as though they are missing something, Ruby is too proud to apologise while Garnet wishes she was able to. After making friends with someone she previously considered rather a bully, Ruby starts to realise that she and Garnet do not need to be the same, and do not have to do the same things, to be happy. She also realises, alternately, that being together would have helped Garnet feel better about leaving. Ruby finds a friend in Rose, also, who encourages her to say sorry to Garnet. In the book, Ruby writes in a notepad she calls a MEMORANDUM.

In the end, Ruby apologises to Garnet, and they both realise that they can still be together while apart, as long as they remember each other. Garnet leaves for school, and writes a letter about how much she is enjoying it.

Adult versions of Ruby and Garnet appear in The Butterfly Club. Ruby has become a children's television presenter named Ruby Red, and Garnet is a scriptwriter and producer.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptationsEdit

The telefilm was made in 2001 for Channel 4 and screened in 2002, starring Birmingham twins, Zoe and Chloe Tempest-Jones.


In the book, the TV show the girls audition for is a TV adaptation of The Twins at St. Clare's. However, in the TV movie, the book is called The Terrible Tempest Twins.

In the book the twins live in London. However, in the TV movie, they live in Birmingham.

Critical receptionEdit

Publishers Weekly described it as "an unexceptional mix of familiar plot devices" and recommended it (or did not) for readers age 9 to 12.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Carnegie Medal Award". 2007(?). Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
  2. ^ "70 Years Celebration: Anniversary Top Tens" Archived 27 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine. The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children's Book Awards. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
  3. ^ "Double Act". Retrieved 2013-09-04. Bookseller presentation quoting several reviews.