Book Review: My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

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

– Justine Larbalestier, My Sister Rosa


‘I promise,’ said Rosa. ‘I won’t kill and I won’t make anyone else kill.’

I can’t see the loophole. Since the guinea pig there’s been nothing. Months now without Rosa killing as much as a mosquito.

As far as I know.

Che’s little sister Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and so good at deception that Che’s convinced she must be a psychopath. She hasn’t hurt anyone yet, but he’s certain it’s just a matter of time. And when their parents move them to New York City, Che longs to return to Sydney and his three best friends. But his first duty is to his sister Rosa, who is playing increasingly complex and disturbing games. Can he protect Rosa from the world – and the world from Rosa?

9781760112226 My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier


As I make my way through Justine Larbalestier’s backlist, I am reminded on every page why I have such a massive author crush on her… there is something addictive about her writing that keeps drawing me in! My favourite of her books so far is Razorhurst however My Sister Rosa is a VERY close second. Larbalestier takes the idea of an evil sibling quite literally in this thrilling young adult novel. Her exploration of childhood evil is chilling, to say the least!

Seventeen-year-old Che is convinced his sister is a psychopath. Little Rosa is described as your typical Shirley Temple with blond hair, blue eyes and a dimpled smile however what people see as adorable and charming, Che sees as cold, manipulative and calculating. Rosa is very good at getting people to do exactly as she pleases… including convincing a young girl to kill her own pet. While Che is trying to manage Rosa, he is also attempting to be a regular teenage boy. Having just arrived in New York City with his family, Che is trying to make new friends, master his boxing skills and find a girlfriend. As Rosa continues to test the boundaries, Che becomes more and more anxious about who she will target next in her disturbing games.

Larbalestier’s books are different to most YA novels; it’s like she sees the world in a different light and seeks to tell the stories that others haven’t told before. Her characters are complex; they are diverse in a way that doesn’t feel like a forced check-list of personality/ sexuality/ ethnicity must-haves. Using New York as a backdrop for the story means that Larbalestier’s eclectic mix of characters feel right at home.

Speaking of home, this book is an interesting exploration of the nature vs nurture debate and the idea of free will. Religion is often used as the cause for evil in literature and film however Larbalestier is definitely moving away from that thought pattern. Rosa definitely revels in the games she plays and Che seems continually upset and distressed by it. There were many times when I questioned how reliable Che is as a narrator; is he only telling the reader what he wants us to see? As he witnesses more and more psychopathic tendencies within his family, the reader sees him strive to be as different from them as possible. He constantly chooses a different path…

Overall, My Sister Rosa is a fantastic read with brilliant tension and a really well-constructed story. I enjoyed every aspect of the book, especially the twist at the end. Read it, you won’t be disappointed!


AUTHOR: Justine Larbalestier

ISBN: 9781760112226

PUBLISHER: Allen and Unwin

RRP: $19.99

PUB DATE: February 2016


Thank you to Dymocks Camberwell for giving me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!


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