Book Review – My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

by Maryse on February 20, 2017 · 0 comments

in My Book Reviews

My Sister Rosa

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

Che Taylor loves his younger sister, Rosa. But he’s also certain that she’s a 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 manipulation she’s capable of….”

Yep. With a blurb like that, you know I one-clicked it so hard. I was DYING to read this. I’m so into any story that has to do with psychological issues and relationships or society. From all sorts of standpoints, whether it’s a romance, or a psych-thriller, but especially from the perspective of the one with the disorder, or the victim (or relationship partner… what have you).

This was in essence, my “dream-psych-thriller” book (a seemingly innocent, adorable child… a HUMAN child, that had very dark needs? That seemed unable to connect and to love, and needed to do, or see terrible things to feel?).

She’s ten years old with blonde ringlets, big blue eyes, and dimples she can turn on and off like, well, like pushing a button. Rosa looks like a doll; Rosa is not a doll.

I HAD to know more. I had to see where this would go. I HAD to find out… why.

bev: My Sister Rosa. I’m tempted. Lots of good buzz but not my usual sub genre of YA. Tempted. Maryse that one may be one you’d like.

Maryse: PSYCH-THRILLER & OH SHEESH!! eekeekeekeek I ONE-CLICKED IT SO HARD & I wanna read this NOW. (Thanks bev!!!) “What if the most terrifying person you know is your ten-year-old sister?” MINE!!! Er… not my sister. I mean… the book. :P

Tracie: Crap! And mine too lol

Maryse: …his little angelic-looking sister is a psychopath – and it is CREEPING me out ’cause I have no idea where it’s going, but I know it’s gonna be jaw dropping!!

Maryse: 9:27pm OMG I just got the daylights scared out of me, reading this creepy book!!!! When, all of the sudden – my loud-ass Alexa says: “Sorry… I don’t know the answer”. And I mean loudly. Alexa is creepy too. Just sayin’ ;) P.S. She’s in the living room, and I’m in my bedroom, and I don’t want to find out who she’s talking to.

bev: Rosa. She’s talking to Rosa.

Maryse: That’s what I’m scared of. neutral

And I have a VERY strange rapport with this book. It was EXACTLY what I wanted to read, had that subtle creep-factor that was omnipresent and always threatening to strike. And it even delved a bit deeper because it explored the complex connections (or lack thereof), and the thought processes, that a psychopath, and their affiliations might experience… and why. And yet, I felt somewhat underwhelmed in the grand scheme of things.

So what’s it about?

Seventeen year old Che (pronounced exactly as you see it… sort of “Chey”) and his little sister Rosa are brand new “New York transplants”. Australian natives (and named after historical revolutionaries), their parents (Sally and David – and yes, they insist on being called by their first names, even by their children), being globetrotting human rights activists are always seeking to better the world with various businesses, and raising funds for said projects. Having partnered with their lifetime wealthy best friends to begin a new one, they are on the move again. But, Che and Rosa are used to moving around, constantly being uprooted, ripped from their friends and lives to start somewhere new.

Che is devastated,

You can make more friends, they argued. We’re moving to New York to make the world a better place. Sometimes you have to put the greater good first.

You care more about the world than me and Rosa, I yelled.

Which was when I lost. Sally and David have no respect for anyone who resorts to emotion. You have to be calm and rational to win an argument. You have to be an adult even if you aren’t one.

..but adorable little Rosa is always up for a new adventure, and meeting new people. Because you see, Rosa (unbeknownst to most, and maybe even her parents – although they do realize she’s… different) is unable to form true connections and attachments.

Rosa learned everything slower than her cousins. Everything that isn’t hardwired. She crawled and walked at a regular pace.

It was smiling and laughing and hugging and kissing and crying and pointing that came slowly. All the things humans do with each other, and in response to one another, Rosa was slow to acquire.

She craves to learn new things, but generally of the demented kind, and it seems only her brother Che knows the truth.

Rosa isn’t afraid of anything but being taken to doctors, of being locked away. She isn’t scared of vicious dogs, or heights, or strange men.

What she is doesn’t matter if she runs into someone who’s worse. She’s ten years old and unafraid. Would she decide it’s funny to get into a stranger’s car? Would she say yes to an invite to have dinner in a stranger’s home?

He sees her for who she is, despite loving her with all of his heart and protecting her since she was a tiny baby. Where Che has always been worried, disciplined and responsible, Rosa is careless, selfish and dangerous.

But that’s not how the world sees her. They see an angelic face, a radiant personality and a charming, highly intelligent little girl. A math prodigy, and a stunner in talent and beauty, she snares everyone in her vicinity into her web, and manipulates to her hearts content.

Rosa is a ticking bomb.

I don’t think it matters what you call it: psychopathy, sociopathy, antisocial personality disorder, evil, or the devil within. What matters is how to prevent the bomb from exploding.

It would be a lot easier if the parentals believed Rosa is a bomb. It would be even easier if she wasn’t a bomb. I would give anything for her to not be the way she is. Rosa ticks off everything on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist except for promiscuity, driving too fast and other adult sins. Give her time.

WHOA. Seriously… every “Rosa” scene had me on edge. I was equally fascinated and terrified (so intelligent and always with the loopholes).

“Talking to you is like talking to . . .” I was going to say the devil. “A slippery eel.”

“I’m trying to understand. Good is complicated. But I’ll try to be it. I don’t like it when you’re annoyed with me.”

“You care what I think about you?” I didn’t mean to say that.

“I like that you like me best. I like being liked.”

The first third of the book had me HOOKED. I was intrigued, and already thrilled, and the characters and direction it seemed to be going in, was everything I was anticipating.

“I’ve been good and kept my promises.”

I snort. Rosa mostly keeps her promises by finding loopholes. She’ll be a terrifying lawyer.

“I should get to do one tiny bad thing.”

“Being good is not a game, Rosa.” Everything is a game to Rosa.

Rosa dimples at me though she knows I’m immune.

“I should get a reward for being good.”


And then I reached the middle… and it slowed down tremendously. Completely shifted gears for some reason. From exciting and ominous to… monotonous and repetitive. Bogged down with a sort of “older YA” teen life as he got to know his new friends, and attempted to find his place in the world, balancing his life as a normal teen…

“Your sister,” Leilani says, when I sit down on the couch, “doesn’t like me.”

“Of course she doesn’t. You don’t think she’s adorable. She’s used to charming everyone.”

“She’s not adorable. She weirds me out.”

My heart beats faster. Leilani noticed.

…with that of his psychopathic sister’s confidante and “tamer” if you will. <— sidenote: My personal confession? THAT is what I wanted. *sigh* MORE.

Rosa will get bored, she’ll look for ways to make trouble without Sally and David, our parents, finding out. That’s the game she plays. My job is to stop her.

His sister’s sneaky ways, and disturbing comments that kept him constantly on guard, while his friends and other adults were completely enamored by her vivacious and sweet personality. Couple that with his loving but negligent parents that were more preoccupied with their “save-the-world” projects, the main character (our “hero”) was a mess of normal teenage angst and incredible guilt and worry in regards to his little sister, and the havoc she could wreak on the world.

“You’ve always worried about everyone else. I swear you were ten going on thirty. You were responsible and never selfish. Rosa’s not like that. But most ten-year-olds aren’t. Most are selfish. Do I wish she was less selfish, more sensitive? Yes! Sometimes I wish you were less sensitive. You’re so easily hurt, Che.”

I’m not sure I recognise the Che she’s talking about.

But I couldn’t put it down, reading with an eerie thrill in my heart, just knowing that I would be blindsided and left breathless by a twist. Maybe even two. I KNEW the routine-like middle would serve its purpose. ;)

That soft, fresh baby smell is long gone, and she’s done and said many awful things, but I want to believe that hug.

I love Rosa. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop.

“Hugging is nice,” Rosa says and it’s on the tip of my tongue to tell her she’s laying it on too thick.

Set it on fire, watch it burn.

Is that what she’s trying to do to me?

Did that happen? The twist? Yes. Two? Yep. Maybe even three. ;) However the reveals and events that lead up to the reveals were much too gentle on my thrill-seeking heart. My book-daredevil needs. I WANT CRAZY INTENSE!!!!!!! I didn’t get crazy intense. I didn’t get mind-blowing.


It was good, and I won’t forget it. Every single moment (thing said, thought had, and moment lived), as cautiously creepy as they were, or as emotional and eyeopening as they were, will remain with me. This is not a “forgettable” book. In fact, it was almost unputdownable ’cause no matter how sluggish it got, at times, you just knew something was coming, and so you HAD to keep reading.

“The thought of her grown up is terrifying.”


4 stars!

P.S. I avoided reviews like the plague because I wanted to be surprised BIG TIME. But now that I’ve read it and “know stuff” I’m off to indulge in what everyone else thinks. I don’t always do that, but for this book, I’m dying to see readers’ various points of views.

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