My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier Review: Living with a Psychopath

April 6, 2016 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier Review: Living with a PsychopathMy Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier
Published by Allen & Unwin on January 27th 2016
Source: Publisher
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! 

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Tiktok@happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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37 responses to “My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier Review: Living with a Psychopath

  1. Oh, wow. This actually sounds all kinds of awesome, and I have only seen positive reviews for it so far! Because of my current mystery/thriller love, I have borrowed it from the library. I really hope I like it!

    I love that the main character is so fleshed out! I really love it when they feel like real people with real interests and relationships. And the fact that family plays such an important role in his life is super awesome.

    The diversity sounds on point, and I can't wait to "meet" all these characters.

    Lovely review, as always, Jeannie <3
    My recent post Did I Just Waste Time &amp; Money On That Thing?

  2. I read somewhere that the most successful people in the world actually have psychotic tendencies, one of them being the drive to succeed. It's scary, but also makes sense as they don't let their emotions get in the way. I loved Justine's book Razorhurst, so I'm not sure why I haven't picked this book up yet. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it Jeann, it sounds like a riveting read!

    • That wouldn't actually be surprising Joy! That sounds fascinating and scary at the same time actually. I wonder how many psychopaths you actually meet and know? Ohhh, I've heard great things about Razorhurst but I'm not sure it's for me. Thank you lovely!

  3. Cyn @ Bookmunchies

    This book is new to me, and holy crap does it sound kinda terrifying, haha. Not sure if this my kind of book,but glad it was a really riveting read! I think the debate of nature vs. nurture is always interesting!
    Great review, Jeann!
    My recent post Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

  4. Wow! This book sounds utterly riveting, Jeann! I've always been drawn to books with psychopaths because they are always so interesting to know what's going on in their heads. I can't even imagine what Che must be going through. I can tell this is a book I'm going to be on the edge of my seat all throughout.
    Wonderful review, Jeann! I must get a copy of this one!
    My recent post Quickie Reviews (3)

    • Thanks Nick, it was a really interesting experience especially with how Che was fixated on Rosa's behaviour as well! I really do recommend it Nick!

  5. This book sounds dark, yet interesting at the same time. I never understand and knew anything about pyscopath (except from criminal minds) and I love that this book explores deeper into that topic. I've heard some people talking about this book, but never had any intentions in reading it. But now… I think I'm going to add this to my tbr! Thanks for the review!
    My recent post March Wrap Up &amp; April TBR

    • It was really interesting Tasya, and I love how it went deeper into the topic than just a psycho killer. I'm so glad you're adding this to the TBR, I hope you enjoy it!

  6. OMG. THIS SOUNDS AMAZING. I love the psychological angle it has going how unpredictable and gripping it sounds. Anyhow, off to see if this is available in the US! *crosses fingers* Thanks for sharing Jeann and, as always, fabulous review! ♥

    • Absolutely, the plot kind of evolves as it goes along. Hahah I know what you mean! This one was interesting because we found out the family history and everything.

  7. Whoaaa this one sounds pretty crazy. I can see how chilling having a psychopathic sister would be! But the diversity in this book is just *pumps fist* YAY FOR AUTHENTIC MALE VOICE, too. 😀
    But the lack of plot is a bit of a daunting prospect. So it follows Che's narrative, but I wonder how the climax of the story would be like (if there is one)? Either way, I'm so glad you enjoyed this one Jeann! 😀

    • It was so good Aila reading about the sister and her psychopathic tendencies. It does follow Che's narrative, but it's one of those things that naturally evolves until it reaches a climax. It was really fascinating! Thanks lovely!

    • It was definitely a dark read and very enticing too! I completely agree Joy, it integrated the diversity and topic so well into the story. Thanks Joy!

  8. lekeishathebooknerd

    This sounds like it would be great to see on screen. I love trying to understand what makes people tick a certain way. I also just love psycho-thrillers in general, so I'm adding this to my list. Great review!
    My recent post Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

  9. I purchased this recently and I'm so excited to read it and even more so after reading this review. It sounds like it has so many of my favourite elements. Plus I love supporting Australian authors so that's an added bonus!
    My recent post BOOK TAG: This or That

    • Oooh I'm excited to hear what you think about it Lauren! Aussie authors write awesome YA too! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did 🙂

  10. rlsharpe

    This book sounds really good but I am still unsure whether I will read it or not. I think it might creep me out a bit. It was creeping me out just reading your review. But Che sounds like a wonderful character and your review has made me really interested in he and Sojourner. I am still on the fence about whether I will read it or not but your review has me leaning more toward reading it than I was before. Thanks for sharing.
    My recent post Review: I knew You Were Trouble By Paige Toon.

  11. AHHHH I LOVED THIS ONE. i mean, psychopaths…yay! *ahem* *composes self* I just adored how it went into the psychological side?! I don't really see that much in books, and omg, it felt so very real. And you're so right about how well the diversity was represented! Real life IS diverse and I appreciated that the book cared about that. 😀

    • LOL Cait I have missed your comments! Welcome back! Yeah, I just love how Aussie books just make diversity a part of it you know? And it did it with justice and it was well fleshed out. Along with the psychopath thing too!

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