BAD SISTER by Charise Mericle Harper & Rory Lucey (Illustrations)

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. It will be released July 27, 2021 by First Second books.

This graphic memoir is the story of two siblings, an older sister, Charise, and her younger brother, Daniel. The story of their interactions leads Charise into seeing herself as a bad sister. Is she really? What makes a good sister anyway?

A lot of what the two of them get up to are pretty standard fare. As an oldest child, with four younger siblings, I feel like I have an intimate understanding of the power dynamics in their family. It isn't easy to always be the responsible one. Are we eldest predisposed to be somewhat bossy and self absorbed? (When I was four I wondered if I could throw the newest baby - a boy - out the window and say it jumped.) Is it inevitable that we think we are bad sisters? 

Their story begins with pretty ordinary sibling jealousy when Daniel is brought home from the hospital. Charise has some complicated feelings that aren't addressed. There is no time frame mentioned but it feels a lot like the 1970's and 80s. That's the way it was in those days. Growing up the two children have a lot more freedom than children today. They ran wild and were generally unfettered by parent scrutiny unless disaster struck. 

Is Charise really a bad sister? She struggles with prosopagnosia (face blindness) and doesn't seem to get social cues. Does this make her bad? In a series of sections that all start with "The Power of..." we see Charise as someone using different strategies to manipulate and control Daniel. At the same time, she acknowledges that he has his own kind of superpower. He 'gets' people and they in turn adore him. The vignettes in these sections reveal more about the family and sibling dynamics. At times it seems like adults take Daniel's side and don't listen to Charise. Does this make her a bad sister? 

Charise leads Daniel into some creative and dramatic adventures in their search for excitement. It appears that both of them have wild fun together. She often tries to do the right thing, but fails. Their games and activities are complicated by Charise's desire for power, control, and her profound desire to be the winner. Sometimes she ends up being just plain mean. Inevitably Charise is wracked with guilt and remorse. 

When the two of them are playing hockey, Charise becomes exceptionally aggressive and breaks Daniel's teeth. This turns out to be an important turning point for her. She decides to become a 'good sister.' Change, however, isn't easy. It's a good thing that Daniel holds the ultimate super power. His honesty and forgiveness end up helping her become the kind of sister Charise really wants to be. 

I especially like that this graphic memoir portrays an authentic, complicated look at sibling relationships. I appreciated the honesty in it. I like that in the end, it's because of their relationship that both of them can become better people. I'm wondering what Daniel's memoir of their time growing up together would be like. I suspect he saw a lot more good in Charise than she gives herself credit for. 

I predict this is going to be a popular book. Elementary school librarians need to purchase at least two copies. Personally, I would purchase enough for a literature circle set. I would love to listen in on conversations between students discussing the sibling dynamics here. 

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a book that tons of readers could relate to—sibling relationships really are so complex, and it sounds like this book captures that well. And it's a graphic novel, so that's a plus for me! (I also just wrote a post that mentioned how I enjoyed a series by Charise Mericle Harper when I was a kid.) Thanks for the great review!