What It’s About…
Che Taylor has four items on his list: 1. He wants to spar, not just train in the boxing gym. 2. He wants a girlfriend. 3. He wants to go home. 4. He wants to keep Rosa under control.
Che’s little sister Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and so good at deception that Che’s convinced she must be a psychopath. She hasn’t hurt anyone yet, but he’s certain it’s just a matter of time. And when their parents move them to New York City, Che longs to return to Sydney and his three best friends. But his first duty is to his sister Rosa, who is playing increasingly complex and disturbing games. Can he protect Rosa from the world – and the world from Rosa?
I absolutely loved My Sister Rosa! Which is unfortunate, considering it’s about a ten year old psychopath. But nonetheless this story is a high quality piece of fiction, and I have yet to stop thinking about it since finishing. Justine Larbalestier gives readers a high stakes setting from the get go, one where the absolute, grisly worst should be expected at any moment. As the book draws closer to its inevitable drop I found myself unsure of the direction things were heading, and can (happily???) say I did not guess the tragic conclusion correctly. It’s a daring concept and an even more brazen execution, but well worth the read. And for that reason I was so close to giving it five stars, though I ultimately decided 4.5 was a better fit considering how slow certain parts were. This one is perfect for any reader who likes having their stomach twisted in knots ALL THE TIME, enjoys true crime, and/or loved Tiffany D. Jackson’s Allegedly. Or if you’re a fan of Sarah Dessen’s latest. I guess what I’m really trying to say is everyone in the YA community should read it. You won’t regret it.
As with any of my favorite books, I think the real genius is in the details. The subtle hints to something more sinister, the so carefully crafted characters, and the meticulous attention given to the writing. Everything about this book is so well thought out I’m shocked Larbalestier herself isn’t a psychopath! Well, maybe not, but she definitely knows how to write one. It’s evident that a lot of time was dedicated to researching the clinical definition of psychopathy, and Rosa herself is an incarnation of it. She’s manipulative, charismatic, and far too intelligent for her own good. Che’s narration allows us to feel a gamet of emotions about her all at once; love, fear, and, eventually, hatred. However Larbalestier also makes it easy to see how her game works. How, in the shoes of someone else, we could so easily fall prey to her whims. It’s troubling and enticing all at once. This is something Che understands very well, and I think allows the reader to connect more with him. He truly is our eyes into this messed up dynamic, and being an “everyman” persona serves him well. Che’s deeply sympathetic and likable, a real person dealing with an impossible situation. The cast is further rounded out by an eclectic mix of individuals- some likable, others less so. In particular I fell hard for Leilani and Sojourner, Che’s confidante and love interest respectively. Both have such fleshed out voices and perspectives that honestly I could probably read a whole book from their POV. Sojourner is also a devout Christian, and with that comes some interesting discussion on good vs. evil, and whether someone like Rosa can be “saved”. It’s an interesting conversation point for sure, but so is this entire book.
I also couldn’t write this review without saying how strong the writing is. Larbalestier is certainly talented in this aspect as well, with a style that immediately sucks you in, maintains semblance to an actual teenage boy, and keeps pace with the thriller part of this book. It’s definitely heavy on Che’s inner monologues and musings, which can make things go slow, but I also think it keeps us just disconnected enough to be able to accurately guess how things will go down. Trust me when I say you’re going to want to be surprised (and shocked and horrified) by the conclusion of this story.
So with all this in mind I would definitely encourage any readers to pick up My Sister Rosa. I promise you won’t regret it.