Published by Allen & Unwin on January 27th 2016
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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What if the most terrifying person you'd ever met was your ten-year old sister? A spine-chilling psychological thriller from one of Australia's finest YA authors.
'I promise,' said Rosa. 'I won't kill and I won't make anyone else kill.'
I can't see the loophole. Since the guinea pig there's been nothing. Months now without Rosa killing as much as a mosquito.
As far as I know.
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?
My Sister Rosa will have you on the edge of your seat from the very first page to the last.
Have you ever met a psychopath? Although they represent less than 2% of the world’s population, how would you know if you’ve encountered, talked to or grew up with one?
That’s what makes My Sister Rosa absolutely terrifying. Che talks about his experience looking after his 10 year old sister from birth, who is also a psychopath. She can’t feel empathy, and takes pleasure in causing pain on others. Her emotionless words and cold heartless way she interacts with the world is disturbing, especially when she confides in Che. Throughout the book, her behaviour slowly escalates and you never really know whether she’s telling the truth or not, due to her being a compulsive liar. The sinister feeling in the book really threw me off guard at times – the plot kept me guessing, and I didn’t know whether to question Rosa, Che, his parents, or their friends at any one time.
“Rosa doesn’t learn to be good; she learns to be better at being bad.”
There isn’t much of a plot in this book, with most of it involving around Che adjusting to a new city, boxing, finding love, and keeping Rosa under control. Che was a fantastically well rounded male character, and I found him to be really relatable. Although he does have anger issues, his interests existed beyond boxing and sex. He’s a protective and caring brother, an active member of his family, and he cares about his friends. I haven’t read such an authentic male characterisation (at least to my knowledge) before and I really admired his voice.
It’s amazing just how much he worries and obsesses about Rosa’s behaviour, but I was relieved to see that his thoughts slowly shifted from his sister to the romance. I liked Che and Sojourner’s relationship, being a healthy cross cultural relationship based on communication. It was great to see him maintaining a life and friendships outside of the romance, which I think is healthy. There wasn’t much romantic drama, but it had it’s share of issues which made it feel really authentic.
The diversity in this book is done really well, which is something that I think Australian YA really excels at. Sojourner has two religious mums, a lesbian blogger friend, and someone who doesn’t identify with any gender. All of these people have distinct personalities and exist beyond their labels. There was also an uncomfortable conversation about the cross cultural relationship, where Che was accused of liking Sojourner simply because she was black. While this pissed me off at the time, I think the author did well in highlighting the ignorance that comes with racial discrimination – we are all humans, but we are not all the same. We’ve been brought up in different ways, different religions, we have different racial attributes and different features. We should embrace this difference and realise that behind all this – we are all people.
“I was born like this. But not because I lack anything – because I’m smarter than everyone else. Empathy stops you from understanding the world. Empathy gets in the way.”
As a book primarily about psychopaths, it was also interesting to see the issue explored deeper here. We often here about psychopathic murderers who feel no remorse, but not those who are struggling with being normal in their daily lives. It was interesting learning how Rosa observed the ‘correct’ way to behave, and it was scary seeing how she could manipulate and charm people to get her way, even at such a young age. It was also fascinating exploring the nature vs nurture debate when it came to having the gene.
My Sister Rosa was absolutely riveting. The ominous tone in the book, the constant fear that Rosa is going to act out and finally hurt someone, and the twists in the plot kept me on the edge of my seat. While I predicted the twist early on, I never stopped guessing throughout. Once you read it, you’ll never stop questioning whether the people around you are in fact, psychopaths. Pick it up and find out.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thank you Allen & Unwin and Dymocks Books for sending me this book for review!