Rosa is pushing all the buttons.
She makes the seat go backwards and forwards, the leg rest up and down, in and out, lights on, lights off, TV screen up, TV screen down.
We’ve never been in business class. Rosa has to explore everything and figure what she’s allowed to do and how to get away with what she isn’t.
The flight attendants love her. Flight attendants always love Rosa. Most strangers do. 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.
Che and his family are on their way to New York, for his dad’s new job. Che wishes they could have stayed in Australia this time, rather than moving overseas again. At home in Sydney, he had friends, he has a boxing gym he loves, he has a life. In New York, he has to begin all over again: new school, new friends, new gym. And Rosa. Rosa, his gorgeous, smart, funny little sister is a psychopath. And it seems he’s the only one who can keep her in line. But no matter how much he shadows her, Rosa has plans of her own. As Che becomes more settled in their new home, their new city, Rosa’s antics become more complex, more dangerous. How can he make others believe what he knows?
My Sister Rosa begins in a plane, en route to New York, as Rosa behaves much like any ten-year-old girl, experiencing business class for the first time. Che’s concerns about her behaviour feel overblown but fairly typical for an older brother. The first-person voice ensures the reader only has Che’s perspective and has to work out whether or not he is reliable in his depiction of their life, of his sister’s behaviour. What is clear, is that he’s keen to have his own life, to box, to have a girlfriend, to go home. He loves his sister, loves his family but New York is going to test them all. My Sister Rosa is a rich, complex, unsettling and compelling novel. Recommended for secondary readers.
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller