Monday, June 25, 2018

Book Review: What My Sister Knew

By Jami Deise

With psychological thrillers being all the rage, most of them try to distinguish themselves with twists that readers can’t see coming. Reading, then, becomes more about trying to guess the twist than really losing oneself in the novel. Nina Laurin’s latest thriller, What My Sister Knew, seems designed for this game.

Fifteen years ago, when they were just 13 years old, Andrea’s twin brother Eli set their house on fire, killing their mother and stepfather and badly burning Andrea in the process. Afterward, Eli went to a psychiatric prison for juveniles while Andrea was adopted by a rich family. Now Eli is back, and seems determined to ruin Andrea’s life.

What My Sister Knew offers a strong, gripping plot, but character work seems to lag in service of its twists. Andrea works at a shelter for teens but seems just as messed up as any runaway. She alienates her fiancé, her co-workers, and her adoptive family. Despite the captivating plot, Andrea just isn’t a protagonist that readers will root for.

The book follows a non-linear structure, as present-day Andrea reels from Eli’s deeds while 13-year-old Andrea copes with a new school, bullies, and a twin brother who is both protector and tormentor. As a teenager, Andrea seems younger than her years, and her inability to cope with schoolmates or Eli (she often threats to “tell” on him) makes her more annoying rather than sympathetic.

The writing, however, flows effortlessly and professionally, making it an easy choice to read to the end. There were twists I had guessed; twists I hadn’t, and a very well-written climax.

What My Sister Knew might not be my first choice among this year’s overflowing crop of thrillers, but it’s a quick, tight read. Some nights, that’s all you need.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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