Friday, October 24, 2014

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

I loved reading Raina Telgemeier's two earlier graphic novels, Smile and Drama, so I was really looking forward to reading Sisters.  And I wasn't disappointed.

Sisters is about a family vacation, a week long road trip from San Francisco to Colorado for a family reunion, with stops in between for sightseeing.  As the girls get ready for the trip, and younger sister Amara begins to really annoy older sister Raina, she reflects on how badly she had wanted this now irritating sister.  So for spite, when Amara asks her if she has any colored pencils to take on the trip, she says no, but then packs a box of them in her suitcase.  Typical sister behaviour!

As they set off, the plan is that Mom will drive, and Dad will be joining the family in Colorado at the end of the week.  Raina occupies the middle seat of their van with her younger sister Amara directly behind her and her little brother Willy in front with Mom.  Oh, and there's no air-conditioning.

To keep her sister out of her life, Raina listens to music using headphones, but Amara being Amara knows exactly how to annoy her anyway (ah-hem, I know this to be so because I am also a middle sister).  But as the trip goes on, and the family runs into problems like torrential rain, a pet snake thought to be dead turning up in the van, older cousins that have changed and outgrown her, and a broken down van in the middle of nowhere,  Raina begins to pull up
more memories of her annoying sister and brother and sibling flashbacks turn into real family memories, like the difficulties when Dad was unemployed.  Meanwhile, Amara, living more in the present reality than Raina, sees the signs that things aren't so wonderful between their parents.

Telgemeier explores a lot of issues surrounding sibling rivalry, parents who don't get along, anticipated events that turn into disappointment, feeling of not fitting in and all the anxiety and tension of being a teen, and she is spot on in capturing the reality of it using spare but humorous text and great illustrations.

What is really nice, is that in all fairness to annoying younger sister, Telgemeier also portrays her Raina character as pretty annoying herself, certainly not the perfect person fictional Raina might have thought she was.  And Telgemeier's honesty in her portrayals of her family are exactly what makes this such a wonderfully relatable book.

Interestingly, none of the incidents in the story are over the top or off the wall, and that is the beauty of Sisters.  Everything that happens, is so ordinary and so true to life.  When Raina is hoping for a little sister,  so sure the baby her mom is carrying will be a girl, it made me remember how my sister and I prayed every night for a little brother, and how often afterwards, when he was super-annoying, we couldn't believe we had asked for him.  Of course, later we couldn't imagine not having him as a brother or for that matter, each other as a sister.  And that is pretty much how you know Sisters will also ultimately turn out.

I loved the cartoon-like illustrations that Telgemeier uses because they can be so expressive even without any text and carry the storyline along so well.  My book was an ARC so not all of the panels were colored in.  I have to admit the story was easier to follow in the colored panels, but what I did see I liked very much.  Color is done by Brayden Lamb, using soft pastel shade for the most part.

Sisters is a book for anyone with siblings, and will definitely make the reader take another look at their family and siblings and rethink their feelings towards them.  No siblings?  You may find you wish you had some.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley


  1. This book sounds like a lot of laughs especially for those of us who made family car trips with siblings! That illustration is priceless. Thanks for sharing on the Kid L:it Blog Hop!

  2. I just ordered this one for my daughter from Scholastic (through our school). She read the first two and just loved them. I love how they have these graphic novels for girls. They are certainly being well-received. Thanks for joining us in the Kid Lit Blog Hop Alex!


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