Sisters by Raina Telgemeier is another autobiographical graphic novel for YA/Teens by the author of Smile. I read and reviewed Smile here on Making them Readers earlier in the summer, and quite enjoyed it, so I thought I’d check this out.
As with Smile, the illustrations are gorgeous, and I love the generous layout she gives each picture. Unlike some graphic novels where things can get rather dark and squished, I love that these books are more cinematic. They feel more airy and easier to read.
Sisters does exactly what it says on the tin. It tells the story of Raina’s somewhat strained relationship with her younger sister Amara. Raina is desperate for a baby sister for years, until she actually gets one. It turns out that Amara is not fun and biddable and a brilliant playmate. Amara is difficult and challenging and hates pretty much everyone unless they’re a snake or a bear.
The main story focuses on a drive that Raina, her sister and brother and her mum take from their home in San Francisco across the USA to visit Raina’s mum’s sister. It takes them a week, and as they are trapped in the car, squabbling and getting on each other’s nerves, Raina has flashbacks to the whole of her relationship with her sister.
The trip turns out to be traumatic and surprising for the whole family, and changes the entire family dynamic. It is only on the way back that the family find a common bond.
This is an interesting book. I like the fact that you have to infer quite a lot of the deeper relationship nuances yourself from the pictures. I also like that this book is just about ordinary life. There are no super heroes. There are no massive, earth shattering events, there is just a focus on the elements of a life that can seem massive if you are a teenage girl. There are no great revelations or answers, and the book kind of drifts to an ending, although there is enough of a resolution for it not to be too frustrating. It kind of tails off, rather like any story that is just about every day life.
There is a lot to enjoy here, and I find the graphic novel form actually works well for this kind of novel, and makes it much less navel gazing and introspective, although I expect a lot of that is down to Raina’s fundamentally good nature and her eye for gentle humour that lifts the more mournful elements of the book.
The book, although aimed at teens would work well for children aged 7 and up, as there isn’t really anything in it to cause alarm or which is particularly teenage in terms of issues. It would work better for girls than boys because it is really all about Raina and her perspective on things and there isn’t really a huge amount here to grip a boy’s attention and keep it.