My Sister RosaMy Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book from start to finish. Larbalestier has done a brilliant job of ratcheting up the tension, step by step, as the story unfolds, and finishing off with a killer twist. Each of the characters is well-drawn, and the uncertain and questioning nature of the main character, Che, gives this novel real depth.

I have strong interest in the use of neuroscience in young adult novels, and for me Larbalestier’s My Sister Rosa sits alongside David Klass’ 2007 novel Dark Angel, which also explores the role of psychopathy and neuroscientific within a sibling relationship. There are similarities between the novels in terms of subject matter and how they address the role of neuroscience in assessing how we think about a person’s culpability for their actions. However, whereas Klass’ main character expresses his hate for his older brother, Larbalestier’s Che loves his little sister Rosa while simultaneously fearing what she is capable of.

It’s this tension between his love and his fear of Rosa that really takes the novel to another level. The reader joins Che in his rollercoaster of emotions as he tries to protect others from Rosa while slowly coming to the realisation that there is nothing he can do to modify or control her behaviour. The novel is excellent in showing how nothing is clear-cut, that even the most ‘obvious’ evidence can be interpreted in a different way, that even an innocent person can be damned by the things they say in carelessness, anger or unthinkingly.

Che’s relationships with his sister, his parents, his friends back in Australia and the ones he makes in New York, are the backbone of this book. They allow us to see all sides of Che, including the parts of himself he’d prefer to hide. With realistic dialogue, solid characters and great pacing, this is a young adult thriller not to be missed. Highly recommended.

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