Review of Bad Sister

Bad Sister
by Charise Mericle Harper; illus. by Rory Lucey
Intermediate, Middle School    First Second    240 pp.    g
7/21    978-1-250-21906-0    $19.99
Paper ed.  978-1-250-21905-3    $12.99

Skillfully told through the comics medium, this memoir centers on the author’s childhood experiences as a self-identified “bad sister”: “It wasn’t on purpose. The badness just happened.” Chapters function as short personal narratives, depicting memories of young Charise and her less-than-stellar treatment of her younger brother, Daniel. In one scene, Charise convinces Daniel to eat cat food; in another, she accidentally breaks one of his teeth with a golf club. As the siblings play, fight, and grow together, Charise develops understanding of and compassion for herself as well as others. Over time she learns to apologize to — and advocate for — her sibling. Raw emotions of guilt, shame, and jealousy are explored, as young Charise interrogates the power dynamics of big ­sisterhood and recognizes Daniel’s strengths. The first-person, past-tense narration is balanced by ­in-the-moment dialogue between characters. In bubbly, bright hues with loose outlines, Lucey’s comics convey thoughtfulness in form, placement, and perspective. Chapter introduction panels that look like Polaroids and the use of Ben-Day dots (like those typically found in newspaper funnies) add to the retro scrapbook-like feel. The soon-to-be cartoonist’s artistic endeavors are an ever-present part of this childhood portrait, but the emphasis remains on the highs, lows, and ­everything-in-between of sibling relationships.

From the September/October 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elisa Gall

Elisa Gall is a teacher-librarian at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. 

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