Review: My Sister Rosa By Justine Larbalestier

Published: November 15th 2016 by Soho Teen

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 320

Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Contemporary, Mystery

Synopsis: What if the most terrifying person you know is your ten-year-old sister?

Seventeen-year-old Aussie Che Taylor loves his younger sister, Rosa. But he’s also certain that she’s a diagnosable psychopath—clinically, threateningly, dangerously. Recently Rosa has been making trouble, hurting things. Che is the only one who knows; he’s the only one his sister trusts. Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and very good at hiding what she is and the violence she’s capable of. 

Their parents, whose business takes the family from place to place, brush off the warning signs as Rosa’s “acting out.” Now that they have moved again—from Bangkok to New York City—their new hometown provides far too many opportunities for Rosa to play her increasingly complex and disturbing games. Alone, Che must balance his desire to protect Rosa from the world with the desperate need to protect the world from her.

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Spoiler Free Review:

The idea of psychopathic sister drew me to this book. I’ve watched far too many Criminal Minds episodes and I love how much the show focuses on the psyche of each of the murderers, discusses mental illness and what the person gains from killing. My Sister Rosa felt a lot a like episode of Criminal Minds, it was dark, cynical and creepy.


The author and main character are both Australian, so some of the terminology was different. I noticed in particular, arse in replace of a butt(which my stupid American self found oddly funny). I did find it refreshing reading from his POV, I kind of tried to imagine an Australian accent, but I failed. The story takes place in NYC and the author herself lives there, so the depictions were accurate. 


I also really liked that Che’s hobbies played a role in the story. I’ve noticed in YA, the main protagonist usually doesn’t have a unique hobby or there isn’t much of a focus on it. Boxing is a big part of Che’s life and plays a major role in the story. I don’t know too much about boxing, so it was interesting to read about. In addition, there quite a bit of representation in terms of race and sexuality. Che’s parents are close with a family that is half Korean and their oldest daughter is a lesbian. Che’s love interest is also black and has two moms (how cool is that?). I really appreciate when authors take the initiative to add characters from different backgrounds and sexual orientations. 


For a thriller, the plot was pretty slow moving. The main premise revolves around Rosa and her dangerous behavior. However, I felt that at times that part of the plot was just forgotten and there was more of a focus on Che and his crush. I really hated the parts where he was being a stupid hormonal teenager, it didn’t add anything to the story. In addition, when the main plot twist came into play, I was caught by surprise but I felt there wasn’t enough foreshadow leading up to it. All of a sudden, it happened and everything made sense because of that one person’s actions. I think I would have liked to see more proof that the plot twist was for real, if that makes any sense. I don’t want to give any spoilers away which is why I’m being vague, but I think if you’ve read the book you would know what I’m talking about. 

The character of Rosa was interesting and creepy. In the beginning, I kind of liked her and thought she was adorable at times. As the story moves on, more of her twisted behavior is revealed and it’s pretty disconcerting. She was the most interesting character and it was interesting to see how her mind worked. She kind of reminded me of Jane from The Mentalist. She had that manipulative charm, though she also had no sympathy or guilt, unlike Jane. 

The ending of the book felt a little of a bit of a cop out to me. Things ended a little too abruptly and I wanted more of a closure. Although I’m sure this is a standalone, there could be a sequel what with the way it ended. Overall, I really enjoyed this thriller. I would recommend if you like Criminal Minds and reading about twisted and creepy siblings. 

Rating: 3.25/5

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