Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece ~ Annabel Pitcher (earc) review

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
August 14, 2012
224 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews' sister Rose died five years ago in a terrorist attack and its torn his family apart. He and his older sister Jasmine (Rose's twin sister) have just moved with their father to the Lake District while their mother's  moved in with a man from her support group. The only thing connecting them, that they've all left behind the London home where they lived with Rose.

That's not to say they've moved on, though.  With his parents grieving so much they seem to have forgotten about their two living children, Jamie relies on his sister Jas to take care of him and his cat Roger for comfort.

When he sees a commercial for a televised talent show (a la Britain/America's Got Talent) he's sure he's found the way to bring their (very) absentee mother back into the fold and reunite their family once and for all - even without Rose.

I'm not sure I've ever read a book where the title should needed to be taken so literally. Yes, Jamie is ten-years-old but Rose 'living' on the mantel is not just his interpretation of things, it's how his family operates. She died five years prior and they're still very much involving her in every day life. She - or rather her urn - gets plates of food on special occasions, she 'gives' people things. It's all rather odd.

Especially so, I would think, for a ten-year-old. While his parents and older sister have more memories of Rose, Jamie was only five when she died and barely - if at all - remembers this girl who is revered and sanctified in his family. It creates a strange, hard existence for him - but also lets the readers see how, well, troubled the family is.

Page two shows right off with a perfect example of where the family is:

"They each got five bits. Mom put hers in a fancy white coffin beneath a fancy white headstone that says My Angel on it. Dad burned a collarbone, two ribs, a skull and a little toe and put the ashes in a golden urn. So they each got their own way, but - surprise, surprise - it didn't make them happy."
We see right away that the parents aren't united on how to deal with things and that Jamie, even at ten, seems to know things that maybe a ten year old shouldn't?

The new move is supposed to be a fresh start and in a way it is - but it's still clear that things aren't quite right. It's a fresh start but it isn't quite a do-over. And that makes it seem real. The characters slates aren't wiped clean.

My Sister Lives on The Mantelpiece has characters who leave you almost constantly wondering what they're thinking, how they could do that, did they get grief counseling even. It almost all seems to be self-aware - on the part of the reader and the author, not the part of the characters - and for the eventual growth of the characters, though.  There's a lot that left me shaking my head and wondering if the characters should just be written off (due to their actions) but for a lot of them they really did get somewhere better - or at least different - at the end.

I have seen the book listed as Middle Grade but I think it's more Young Adult or upper Middle Grade for the need of the reader to see the right and wrong in things that the characters only see as necessity.

If you're interested, David Tennant did the audio (at least the British audio) and  an audio sample is here.

Rating: 8/10

thank you to LBYR and Net Galley for my egalley of this title

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