Welcome to my Read-it-if Review for new release, AUSSIE, YA title My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier. I’m offering a giveaway of a paperback copy of this title – with thanks to Allen & Unwin who provided it for review – but you’ll have to read on (or at least scroll furiously to the end of the post) to find out how to get your hands on a copy.
Let’s get on with it! Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
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?
Read it if:
*you have a sibling that you are pretty sure could have been (a) secretly adopted, (b) switched out for a faerie changeling at birth or (c) left on the stoop by down-at-heel members of an alien race living in hiding on Earth
*you’ve ever felt like your parents don’t really know you exist
*you like reading descriptions of sweaty people punching things
*you think keeping a diary, protected with a password, on your computer is a foolproof way to keep your personal musings safe from prying eyes
*you have ever wanted to find love in a foreign city. Or do lots of jogging in a foreign city.
My Sister Rosa is being touted as a psychological thriller focused around a seventeen-year-old boy who has been tasked with the protection of his ten-year-old sister who has psychopathic tendencies. I had sky-high expectations for this story based on the blurb, as well as the fact that the author had received plenty of hype for her debut novel, Razorhurst. Unfortunately, this was just an okay read for me and didn’t ever reach the terrifying, edge-of-your-seat heights that some other reviewers have mentioned. **I should probably note that out of the 15 ratings currently on Goodreads for this title, all of them are four and five star ratings except for mine, which is a 2 star rating, or “it was okay”, so I am very much in the minority of opinion at this point!**
Initially, there were a lot of things I liked about this book. Che is a reasonably interesting and very believable main character and narrator for one thing. His emotions and behaviours on arriving in a brand new city with his indifferent parents and being unofficially tasked with the looking-after of his sister Rosa were deftly penned. His early explorations of the city are engaging. While I was slightly annoyed with the banter at Che’s first official meeting with the daughters of his family’s patrons in New York, Leilani – the oldest daughter – turned out to be my favourite character by the end.
I had two major problems with the book, the first being the slow pacing. By the end of the first half of the book, I was ready for something to have happened in the “Rosa is dangerous and likely to hurt someone” plotline. I prefer my psychological thrillers to be pacey, edgy and to give me a reason to keep turning the pages. From the very first pages in My Sister Rosa, we know that Rosa is dangerous, we know that something is going to happen and by the end of the first third of the book, we have a pretty shrewd idea of who the handful of characters might be who will end up being the victim of her games. Yet by the end of the first half, nothing has happened.
There seemed to be too much else going on in the story for the author to really drill down on Rosa’s actions so instead of it ending up as a psychological thriller, it read more like a coming-of-age, first-love, teen-boy-finding-himself sort of story. This in itself was interesting enough, but I was really looking forward to more edgy, creepy, little-blond-psycho-girl activity than is actually presented.
My second major problem with the book was that almost every character except for Che and Leilani I found extremely irritating or unbelievable. Che’s parents are a waste of space. Sojourner (the love interest) is part of a quasi-inclusive Christian community who openly accept people of a wide variety of faiths but are appalled if someone takes the Lord’s name in vain. Or swear. Leilani’s friends Elon and Victoria, while interesting enough, don’t have any impact on the main plotline, so seem superfluous to operations and generally slow down the plot. Did I mention Che’s parents are a complete waste of space? The parents really got to me, in case you can’t tell.
I was also unhappy with the ending, which seemed completely unbelievable to me.
I think that not being in the YA age-group really impacted my enjoyment of this particular book, as I didn’t have as much patience as a younger person might for plot twists and characters that seemed unlikely. Overall, I did find this book to be an engaging read – just not what I wanted it to be and not nearly creepy enough for a psychological thriller.
Again though, I appear to be in the minority on this one if Goodreads is anything to go by and therefore I am going to give one of you the opportunity to snag your own copy of My Sister Rosa and decide for yourselves! So now, here’s the ….
I am giving away one paperback copy of My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier to one lucky reader. The giveaway is open internationally – hooray!
To enter, just comment on this post and answer this question:
“What really creeps you out when reading a book?”
The giveaway opens the moment this post goes live (now!) and will close at midnight (Brisbane time) on Friday the 19th of February, 2016. I will use a random number generator to select a winner from the pool of commenters and the winner will have 48 hours to respond to a congratulatory email before a new winner is chosen. We will not be responsible for prizes lost or damaged in transit.
Until next time,