Friday, June 10, 2011

Brother Sister by Sean Olin

 Brother Sister
Brother/SisterSean Olin
June 9th, 2011
242 pages

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.( From Goodreads)

Brother Sister is a deeply disturbing, dark story about a brother and sister who raised themselves while their mother was in and out of rehab for alcohol addiction.  Dad left when Will, the brother, was six and mom put the terrible burden of being "the man of the house" on his shoulders and told him " if anything happened" it would be his fault.  An awful lot for a six year old to bear on top of being deserted by his father, though there are hints that this his leaving may not be a bad thing.

Will was picked on, teased, bullied, humiliated- I've run out of words to describe the horrors he survived growing up, yet inside, he told himself it didn't matter as long as Asheley, his sister was protected. Asheley, for her part, remembered her dad as a good man, she was three when he left. She is a tad more social than her brother, she even has a boyfriend. She plays a team sport and after a spectacular game, finally feels like she's part of the group. But her boyfriend ruins it. Going home she finds her mother, after four months of sobriety being carted off to rehab again.

Will is inside the house having suffered the worst bullying of all-his mother beating him with the trophy he just won for being the best golfer in the county. She hit him so hard the golfer fell off the top of his trophy. Asheley comforts hims as always, holding him from behind rocking him back and forth. And the two realize, the summer is spread out before them with no parents. But what starts out as a fun summer of playing grown up, turns into a twisted nightmare.

The bullying Will suffered throughout his life has warped his mind until his only thought is to protect Asheley. He sees threats everywhere-even when there are none. He devolves into a manic mess that even Asheley is afraid of, playing along only because she's afraid for her life.

The novel is told in alternating points of view- one chapter Will, the next chapter Asheley. The story is being told it seems like at a police station. Will's deteriorating frame of mind is like watching a train wreck, you can't look away. As his mind sees threats everywhere you can't help but wonder even after reading the story, was it the bullying, the burden of being the man of the house, the desertion of his father, the behavior of his father, his mother's alcoholism or maybe a mental illness that caused Will's behavior. And why did Asheley go along with it? Or was she a part of it? The last line of the book was chilling and left me to look at the novel through a different set of eyes. Had it not been three am., I would have read it again.

This book is chilling, haunting, heart breaking, achingly sad, manipulative and horrifying. It will make you think and rethink and re-examine everything you read. It will make you want to hug the little boy that was Will who stopped being a child at six and became a man. He took the bullying and internalized it. It will show you how bullying can make a person shut off their feelings. I think that's what made Will who he was. He never had a chance - his dad, his mom, kids at school, others- they all bullied him. If he became mentally ill from that, its not surprising.

This isn't a happy book, but it is well worth reading. It's well written. The characters are well written and their motivations are understood. The story is unbelievable as it spirals out of control. And the way the author wrote it, telling it from the two characters points of view in hindsight, but in great detail, was perfect. Asheley never claimed involvement, Will took all the blame. But you do have to wonder if she could have stopped what was happening. This is a truly compelling story, never slowing down even for a second. This is a must read-I don't know for who-bullies maybe-people that want to see the end result of bullying-perhaps. But I know if it was a bullying story. That part was so underplayed. Yet it affected him so much. I do know, I'll never forget it-especially the last line. And I'll be reading it again!

Heather in Sandwich



  1. This one sounds depressing yet compelling. I will have to write this one down. Thanks for the review!

  2. Bailey- It actually isn't depressing. It's emotionally tense, but not depressing. I almost wanted to call it a psychological thriller, but I knew who the players were.


  3. This sounds awesome, Heather. And I'm so glad you said it wasn't really depressing. I hate books that get you down.

    Great review.

    Kelsa P.

  4. This book sounds very moving !! I'll definitely reacd it soon .. Thanks for the great review ;)


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