Saturday, December 28, 2013

Review: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

This was possibly the best book I’ve read in years. I rarely give a “5 Star” status but didn't even have to think about it. There were many reasons for me NOT to like this book. It’s contemporary fiction (I’m drawn to fantasy). It’s about “depressing” subjects, it’s akin to a “problem novel,” which I tend to find forced with see-through agendas taking on too many issues. But I loved this book. It wasn’t forced, it was genuine. Not depressing, but uplifting.

When children ask questions, and adults won't or can’t answer, they are left to make their own assumptions about life. Ten-year-old Jamie has a lot of questions and the first person narration captures his observations.

His older sister, Rose (a twin), died five years before the novel begins in a London terrorist attack. Jamie can hardly remember Rose, but his family has fallen apart because of the loss. His father harbors fear and hate for Muslims and holds onto his grief, forcing it onto others. His mother has checked out and left the family. His older sister, Jas, does her best to make sure Jamie knows he is cared for.

What shined was Jamie’s relationship with his classmate and best friend, Sunya, who wears a hijab to school. Though this relationship is a risk for Jamie (how furious would his father be if he knew?), it is Sunya who strengthens Jamie’s spirit when he is at his lowest. She sticks up for him, plays into his fascination with superheros and even calls Jamie out when he acts like a fair-weather friend.

Jamie’s belief that things can get better and that friendship is important carry this book. He loves his family despite their glaring problems and takes action, doing the best a 10-year-old can, to make things better. I laughed and I cried in no small part to Annabel Pitcher’s writing but also because of David Tennant’s amazing narration. Just fantastic.

The mantelpiece, the hearth, is supposed to be the center of home which conjures feelings of warmth and belonging, love and security. But in Jamie’s home, his dead sister lives on the mantelpiece and her ghostly presence looms large, scattering all positive emotions. But with help from Sunya and Jas, Jamie finds a way to make his presence known and remind a family what it means to be family. 

Though targeted at middle-grade readers, I'd recommend this book to anybody. Anybody! <3

Publisher: Findaway World, 2012     Length: 6 hours
Rating: 5 Stars     Source: Public Library

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