The Good Sister by Jamie Kain
St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication date: available in paperback December 8, 2015
Target Audience: ages 13 and up (Young Adult)
Full Disclosure: I received a copy from St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.
I love a book that begins with a mystery. The Good Sister lets us know in the first three pages that a horrible, mysterious accident has left Sarah, the oldest sister of three, dead — and from a lingering state of purgatory, we hear her point of view on her short life and the terrible twist of fate that led to her untimely death. To add to the intrigue, there is a vague mention of Brandon in the opening — we don’t know who he is early on, but Sarah lets the reader know he is important to the unfolding story.
Alternating successfully between first-person points of view of all three sisters (Sarah, Rachel and Asha), we gain a concrete understanding of their childhood (flashbacks are woven throughout) and their overall relationships with one another. Each sister is a fully developed character with a distinct personality and her own baggage. Their upbringing with carefree hippie parents has made them rely on each other in different ways and Sarah’s death leaves them struggling to cope without her. The scenes reflecting on Sarah’s funeral, told from the differing perspectives of Rachel and Asha, will not fail to pull at your heartstrings.
Page by page the puzzle pieces come together and we learn what actually happened to Sarah. The Good Sister certainly tackles the heavy emotion of grief, but the story is about so much more than tears and loss. It is also about relationships, growing up, and strength. Although the book is sad — among other things it mentions Sarah’s cancer diagnosis, which she beat only to die from an accident — it is also full of hope. The believable quality of the book (aside from Sarah’s haunting, cognizant presence) will keep you turning the pages and examining your own heart. In a deeply heartfelt way, the novel will make you think about the fibers of your own family — and how our bonds with the people we love shape our lives long after they are gone.
An adult reading this book will (perhaps) glean more of the emotional nuances, but teen readers will find a satisfying story that urges them to examine feelings and familial ties — making the story relevant to their own lives. Kain’s debut book (released in 2014) will leave an important mark on YA.
For more information about author Jamie Kain, please visit her website jaimekain.com