Author: Aimee Said
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: May 1st 2011
Length: 301 pages
From Walker Books: Al Miller wishes she was an only child.
Al Miller is counting down the days until her over-achieving older sister Larrie finishes Year Twelve and leaves Whitlam High School for ever. Then, Al is certain, people will finally see her as more than just “Larrie’s little sister”. But when a rumour about Larrie spreads around school, Al finds herself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Who’s behind the rumour? And will it kill Al’s chances with school hunk, Josh Turner?
I was absolutely thrilled to get my hands on a copy of Aimee Said’s second novel, Little Sister. Most of you probably don’t know, but Aimee’s YA debut, Finding Freia Lockhart was the first title I ever reviewed on here!
Whilst I know from Aimee’s blog that she was worried about ‘second book syndrome’ with the release of Little Sister, I want to assure everyone that this novel is just as funny, clever and full of heart as Finding Freia Lockhart. Little Sister focuses strongly on sibling rivalry (Al is the titular little sister to perfect, studious school president Larrie), and also deals with homophobia and cyber-bullying with sensitivity and realism.
I think a lot of readers will identify with Al (and I did find it easy to sympathise with her at times), but maybe it’s because I’m an eldest child as a lot of Larrie’s mannerisms and behaviours were freakishly similar to my own in VCE (the obsessive study habits, being grouchy to younger siblings). Still, Al is a relatable character and even though some of her actions throughout the novel may have frustrated me a little, I was totally cheering for her at the end. I also adored Al’s group of friends - Maz (one of the best YA best-friends I have read in a while!), Prad and Nicko, and of course the delightfully-nerdy Simon (yay for gingers!) as well as the lovely fellows of Say Cheese, Dylan and Jay (working in a cheese shop – best after school job ever!). Aimee’s supporting characters are well-developed, entertaining and help provide some comedic fodder amidst the more serious issues raised.One of the most interesting aspects of Little Sister for me was the way the novel utilised social media in the lives of the characters, as well as a narrative device (Al has these fictional status updates at the end of each chapter which was a little detail I loved). Aimee also examines the growing issue of cyber-bullying. Without being an ‘issues’ story (or going in the direction of an after-school special), Little Sister looks at the power of the internet, and the way it can be used to both empower and intimidate be used to intimidate teens. Scarily, in research for this review, I found out that according to a 2006 survey, 43% of American teens had experienced some form of cyber-bullying in the past year (and as this is prior to the mainstreaming of Facebook, I’d say those statistics are conservative!)
My reading of Little Sister also caused me to consider my relationship with my own little sister. I’m lucky (in a sense) that there is six years between us, and because of this age gap, we were never at high school at the same time (also, in my opinion, we don’t look very similar - photographic evidence - so teachers were less likely to make a connection and the inevitable comparison). In saying that, I’m probably more like Larrie than I’d like to admit and my own little sister is rather Al-ish and we definitely have our moments of intense sibling rivalry – though we also have a brother in between us, and he is definitely the favourite, so I think that helps diffuse sister vs. sister fighting. My original point is that Aimee has done a great job at capturing sibling rivalry and the way it impacts on the family dynamic. I’m sure most sisters will be able to identify with Larrie or Al and will be able to laugh, sympathise and appreciate their relationship.
Overall, I found Little Sister to be a really enjoyable read which manages to address a number of issues facing contemporary teens. It is also very funny, full of angsty-amusing observations, features a Battle of the Bands contest, soccer-playing boys and hi-larious games like Lucky Cats. Be sure to check back here tomorrow for a guest post by Aimee Said, as part of the Little Sister Blog Tour.