Christine Hurley Deriso's ... then I met my sister caught me from the title. It made me wonder, how is this teen meeting her sister for the first time? What family dynamic caused that? Well, turns out Summer doesn't literally meet her sister at all. But the family dynamics are definitely compelling.
Summer has lived her whole life in the shadow of her older sister, Shannon, who died before Summer was born. Summer, in fact, wouldn't have been born at all had Shannon not died. Summer was an attempt at replacing her sister, who died in a car accident on the way to her first day of senior year of high school. Summer's house is a shrine to the beauty and accomplishments of Shannon, who would surely have done great things with her life, had she had the chance. Determined not to compete, Summer has spent her entire life under-achieving, refusing to give in to her controlling mother.
Everything changes when Summer's aunt gives her a secret journal, the journal that Shannon kept during her last summer. Summer soon learns that neither Shannon was both more and less than she had imagined - a real person instead of a column of trophies on the shelf. She finds hints that Summer's death might not have been an accident. and that her parents have been keeping secrets from her. Summer's exploration into her sister's life consumes her, and changes her relationships with the people around her (including her very cute male friend Gibs).
In ... then i met my sister, all of the drama is emotional. There are no zombies or apocalypses or magical devices. Summer hardly ever even leaves her small town. She spends time reading her sister's diary, working at her aunt's flower shop, and circling around a relationship with Gibs. And yet, the book is utterly compelling. I read it in one sitting, and didn't even stop to mark any pages.
I think that what's compelling about the book is the authenticity of Summer's emotions. She's a great character. She is unaware of how smart or pretty she is (only aware of how much less pretty and smart she is than her sister), and unwilling to be part of the mainstream. She is brave and sarcastic and funny. Her developing romance with Gibs is real and sweet, without being insipid. And her relationships with her parents are flawed, but real, too.
... then i met my sister is a fast read, with quite a bit of dialog, and generous amounts of white space. The interspersed journal entries provide contract to Summer's first-person viewpoint. I think that the book will appeal to reluctant readers.
Here are a couple of examples of Deriso's writing:
"I pull out a book. It's bound in plump lavender fabric. It's faded and, even with no writing on the cover, it looks dated."
"Honey." Aunt Nic grabs my hands, loosening the book from my grip as it lands on my lap with a dull thud.
"You don't have to read this if you don't want to."
I glance down at the book, suddenly acutely curious. Every English teacher should preface a literature assignment this way. "You don't have to read this if you don't want to." The assignment would become downright irresistible." (Page 27)
"I hear Mom's sing-song voice at the bottom of the stairs. She must have seen Gibs coming up the driveway and opened the door before he could ring the bell. She's welcoming him in the foyer, complimenting his shirt. He's unusually neat for a guy with a ponytail. Like the suit during Honors Day. I bet his mom didn't even have to talk him into it.
I walk downstairs and give him a peace sign. He's wearing an Oxford shirt, unbottoned at the collar and tucked into khaki pants. Only Gibs can manage to look preppie and boho at the same time. His face broadens into a shy, sweet smile. God, he looks cute. But it'll be another five years or so before Gibs figures out that girls dig his smile. I totally get that, so I don't wast my time even considering a crush." (page 32)
Ah, self-protection. Who can't relate?
In short, ... then i met my sister is something that I've come to expect from Flux, top-notch realistic young adult fiction. A review that I skimmed on Amazon recommended pairing this book with 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, and I agree. I could also see this as a wonderful teen movie. Highly recommended.
Publisher: Flux (@FluxNow)
Publication Date: April 8, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).