L’ll Sista from Hell

My Sister Rosa
Justine Larbalestier
Allen & Unwin
January 27th
$19.99

MySisterRosaThose of us unlucky enough to have grown up with younger siblings know how annoying they can be at times. But what if your little sister was more than annoying? What if she was a psychopath? I don’t mean psychopath in the metaphorical or hyperbolic sense but in the actual medical diagnosis sense. What if your ten year old sister was clever, charming, manipulative, callous and completely lacking in empathy? What if you had to ask her to promise not to kill anyone and not to trick someone else into killing anyone?

This is seventeen year old, Che Taylor’s life. In My Sister Rosa Che tells us about his struggle to keep his evil little sister’s games from causing too much harm. No one will believe that the cute little bundle of joy is anything but a slightly precocious child going through the normal stages of growing into a wonderful human being. His aggravating parents will not listen and seem too intent on each other and saving the world to notice that their daughter is not like other little girls.

The novel opens with the family moving to New York where Che’s parents (the parentals) are going to be starting a business for some uber-rich friends. Lots of teenage “stuff” is happening to Che while trying to keep a lid on his sister’s evil tendencies. He falls for the beautiful but religious boxer, Sojourner. They spar in the ring while he verbally spars with the cold and bitchy Leilani, who buys him thousand dollar tee-shirts.

The story begins very much in the vein of your average teen novel with stock teen characters, stock teen narrative—whinging, bitching, social embarrassment, sexual tension, with only the little psychopath to make it interesting. However, the tension gradually builds. Che fears are heightened when he observes Rosa manipulating Leilani’s twin sisters. Worse still, she joins Sojourner’s bible class to learn more about Jesus, while dropping hints to Che that his beloved boxer might fall down some stairs.

Can he control her? Who can he turn to for help? Why are his parents so annoyingly deluded and self-satisfied? Justine Larbalestier manages to bring in surprising plot twists which turn the final third of the book into a finely crafted psychological thriller. It ends up a very satisfying (and chilling read) with a great ending.

About Tim Hehir

Tim Hehir writes novels, short stories and plays. His YA novel Julius and the Watchmaker is published by Text Publishing.
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