Bad Sister

First Second. Jul. 2021. 240p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250219060; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781250219053.
Gr 5-8–Harper’s graphic novel memoir chronicles her childhood relationship with her younger brother, Daniel. Charise is a bad sister, and she knows it—but she can’t seem to help saying hurtful things out of jealousy. Daniel seems to make friends much more easily than Charise, who isn’t comfortable talking to strangers, blurts out things she regrets, and finds it hard to recognize people due to face-blindness. She spends a lot of time apologizing and feeling guilty for her actions, especially when their often dangerous games (such as rolling down a hill in a tire) go awry—like the time Daniel ends up needing a replacement tooth after Charise knocks a ball into his mouth. Harper makes it clear that despite the angst, Charise and Daniel have an unbreakable bond, and she deftly conveys the sibling dynamic: One minute the two are squabbling, the next they’re secretly finding a way to communicate through the walls after bedtime. Chapters consist of different childhood memories focusing mainly on Charise and Daniel’s interactions, along with their parents and neighbors. Clothing sets the time period around the 1970s, and the muted cartoon art evokes the period well. Some readers may identify more with Charise’s experiences of awkwardness and attempts to be a responsible big sibling; others will see themselves in little brother Daniel—yet all will feel invested in Charise’s struggles and growth. Charise, Daniel, and their parents are white.
VERDICT Give to readers who enjoyed Jennifer Holm’s Sunnyside Up and Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters.

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