Parents' Guide to

My Sister Rosa

By Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Riveting thriller about teen boy and psychopath kid sister.

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A teen boy tries to protect the world from his sociopathic little sister in this gripping, suspenseful thriller. My Sister Rosa opens with Che's family on their way to New York City so his parents can pursue yet another business start-up. While being moved to a nice apartment in Manhattan might be cause for celebration for most 17-year-olds, Che is filled with dread, and rightly so. His 10-year-old sister is a budding psychopath. Che has kept close watch over her for her entire life and worries how much harder that will be in a city as big, busy, and anonymous as New York. The suspense in the story comes from not knowing what Rosa's going to do next. Che's feeling of responsibility for her is heartrending, especially because his parents either don't see Rosa's problematic behavior or won't let themselves admit it.

The story is told from Che's point of view, and he's a smart, engaging narrator. He has to battle being a shy teen with a huge burden in a big city. As he makes friends and starts dating, and as Rosa gets craftier, looking after her becomes difficult and could lead to serious consequences, all of which ratchets up the story's tension. The book poses lots of interesting ideas and discussions, including big questions around what constitutes good versus evil behavior and whether empathy can be taught. The medical information on human behavior is fascinating and is well-woven into the story without being heavy-handed. Author Justine Larbalestier does a good job of keeping all the plot points moving without dropping any or giving any short shrift, although Che's ongoing talks with Rosa about her behavior get repetitive. There's a good twist that would have been even more effective had more groundwork been laid for it.

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