My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher (review copy) - Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a 'Fresh New Start'. Five years ago his sister's twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn't cried in all that time. To him Rose is just a distant memory. Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad. And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago. When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all. From Amazon UK
As much as I liked the sound of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, when it came to reading it, I did put it off quite a few times. Why? Because the story was told by a ten-year-old, and in my mind that meant that it was aimed for quite young readers. As I'm not normally a fan of books for younger readers, I was worried I'd be disappointed by this novel. In actual fact, I was completely blown away.
The first thing I need to talk about is just how sweet this book is. Yes there are some pretty bad things that have happened before the start of the book and happen within the book's pages, but it's Jamie's voice; young, ten-year-old Jamie who is telling us his story and has such a brilliant, wonderful, and simple outlook on life, it's just lovely. He finds beauty int he most unexpected places, and love and strength in the most dire of circumstances, he is just wonderful! He explains things in his simple, child-like way, but makes absolute, perfect sense. The voice is just so incredibly real, together with the perfect cover, you can't help but imagine that gorgeous little boy telling you his story, and I wanted to pick him up and give him a hug so many times.
This story was also completely heartbreaking. His sister, Rose, died five years ago, and he doesn't really remember her. Yet his family are still suffering from the grief. His Mum walked out on them, and his Dad drinks himself into a stuper almost everyday. His Dad is completely obsessed with Rose, to the point that she gets a stocking put by her urn every Christmas, and a slice of cake whenever it's someone's birthday. He cannot let go, and everything is about her, to the point that Jamie might as well be invisible.
Jas, Jamie's older sister and Rose's twin, tries hard to give him the care he needs, but at just 15 herself, and going through her own issues, it just isn't perfect. But Jamie finds fun in the absolutely lovely Sunya, the girl he sits next to at school. However, as Rose died in a terrorist attack, his Dad is completely anti-Muslim, so Jamie goes through this inner conflict of wanting to be Sunya's friend, but how can he be when Muslims killed his sister? And when his Dad hates them so much? On top of all this, Jamie desperately, desperately wants to get his Mum and Dad back together and for everyone to be happy again, and he tries so hard.
There are also some other issues covered in My Sister, such as bullying and religions/beliefs, and those that Jamie himself doesn't know are big issues due to his age but the reader will, such as anorexia. In the case of anorexia, although Jamie doesn't realise how serious his sister's eating is, the little glimpses show a bigger picture, how the death of her twin, the abandonment from her mother, and her Dad's drinking affects Jas, and makes the story even more credible. Jamie may not see it, but we do, and understand. With this as one of many examples in mind, yes, this book can be enjoyed by younger teen readers, but it can also by enjoyed by older teenagers and adults alike, it has complete crossover appeal. It's such an amazingly fantastic novel that everyone can find something to enjoy from it.
This really is a beautiful, moving, and heartbreaking story, and at times really difficult to read, but absolutely brilliant. I am completely in awe of Pitcher over how spot on Jamie's voice and how real the story feels. It really does feel like he's talking to you, and you can't help but fall in love with him and want to look after him. This is one little boy I won't be forgetting anytime soon.
Thanks to Orion for sending me a review copy.
Published: 1st March 2011
Publisher: Orion Children's Books
Buy on Amazon US
Annabel Pitcher's website