Monday, 8 August 2011

Book Review: Brother/Sister by Sean Olin.

Product details:
Publisher: Razorbill.
Paperback, 272 pages.
Release date: August 4th 2011.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Ages: 14+
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Will and Asheley have a troubled past. Their father left them when they were little, and their mother has just been carted off to an alcohol treatment center. Now, they have the house to themselves, and an endless California summer stretching out before them. Through alternating perspectives, they tell the story of how and why their lives spun violently out of control - right up to the impossibly shocking conclusion you'll have to read for yourself to believe.

Billed as Flowers in the Attic meets Natural Born Killers, Brother/Sister by Sean Olin may have a hot Californian summer setting, but it is a distinctly dark, disturbing read with a killer twist, and an ending that will play on your mind for days after you’ve turned its final pages.

We meet Will and Asheley, the brother/sister pairing of the title in the aftermath of a summer gone wrong.  Told in a dual narrative form of confessional, we learn that Will and Asheley have had a difficult upbringing at the hands of their alcoholic mother, while they haven’t seen their father since they were little kids.  From the age of six Will has had to be the ‘man of the house’ and this has been such a burden on his young shoulders that he’s been left damaged and broken.  Will is presented to us as a loner, a teenage boy who doesn’t have any friends, and spends his days cooped up inside playing computer games. His frustration leads him prone to violent outbursts, but there is one person he would never hurt, and that’s his younger sister. In fact, he would do anything to protect Asheley, who because of this has been somewhat shielded from the mistakes of her parents, seeing her father as a hero instead of the bully that Will remembers, she idolizes him and dreams of a day when she will see him again.  Asheley presents herself to us as social and outgoing.  She has friends and a boyfriend, and she is determined that this will be a summer of fun for her and Will.  She imagines a summer spent on the beach, of parties and road trips. A summer that will change everything. And that’s exactly what happens, but not in the way Asheley had hoped for.

Brother/Sister is a fast-paced page turner that really packs a punch. When Will and Asheley’s mother falls off the wagon and  ends up back in rehab, the teenagers are left to their own devices, where they revel in their freedom and in ‘playing house’.   Asheley sets off to work at the local ice-cream parlor each day, and when she returns, Will has an evening meal waiting for her.  They drink wine, they watch movies.  It’s safe to say that Will and Asheley, as siblings, have a relationship that borders on inappropriate at times, and I know that people have been put off reading Brother/Sister because of this, but it’s a misconception that this book is about incest.  It’s also important to bear in mind that this book is clever in that it often presents events from just one point of view, so you’ll wonder at times if what you are reading is true, of if the actual truth is, in fact, darker than any lie could be.

 Whatever the case may be, Will and Ashley’s summer is about to take a very dark turn, when one night, the teens throw a party with disastrous consequences.  From then on their lives begin to spiral out of control with shocking consequences and a genius conclusion which will make you rethink everything you’ve just read and question everything you know or think you know about the characters. If you’re looking for something different from your usual YA reads then Brother/Sister one is for you.  It’s a dark, disturbing read that will send shivers down your spine and leave you with a whole lot of food for thought!


  1. Brilliant review!! I love dark and disturbing reads, I've definitely got to grab this one. I wonder why they compare it to Flowers in the Attic if the book does not include incest? Regardless, this one is going on my TBR. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

    Donna @ The Happy Booker
    ahappybooker at gmail dot com

  2. Thanks Donna. I pointed that out as I personally know people who were turned off this book as they thought it was about incest. It's not, although the close relationship between brother and sister might be uneasy reading for some. Or maybe it's not even all that it'll have to read it and see! :)

  3. I frigging LOVED this book! Especially the ending! Great review love :) x

  4. I've seen mixed reviews of this one. But if you say it's dark and disturbing, I'm not sure if this is for me. Thanks for the review, Leanna!

  5. @Carly - isn't the ending genius?! Made me rethink the whole book and the characters!! Shocking stuff!

    @Hafsah - It's definitely on the dark side of YA. Dark and edgy for sure!

  6. I actually thought it was all about incest at first so I put the book, now that I know it's not I think I'm gonna go get it. I like most dark books so I'm excited to read this! Thanks for the review:)

  7. I was intrigued by this one, but now I'm absolutely hooked! I have got to get my hands on it! I thought it was about incest too -- so thanks for clearing that up =)

  8. I am reading Brother/Sister this week and I am more curious after your review. It does seem very dark and gritty.

  9. This looks like something my students (and I) would love!!!! Can't wait to read it :-)


  10. This one sounds pretty neat! Does it remind you of Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma?

  11. @Kelli - I haven't read that one, but from reviews I've read, I don't think the books are all that alike.


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