“Do you think I’m the devil?”
Seventeen-year-old Che thinks his 10-year-old sister, Rosa, might be worse than that. Rosa lies and manipulates others, steals, and tortures bugs—all for her own entertainment and curiosity—and her extreme behavior is increasing. Che’s parents don’t believe his claims about Rosa, so when they move to New York City, he has one goal: protect the city from his psychopathic little sister. As Che presents his research on sociopathy and personality disorders via conversations with Rosa, readers witness her malicious behavior, threats, and lies firsthand. Not one to shy away from tough subject matter, Larbalestier addresses issues related to gender, sexual orientation, religion, identity, and race with tact. Though narrated by an Australian white male, diversity abounds in the novel, effortlessly sharing the pages with the riveting plot as it builds to a frightening climax. Che is in love with his “very dark-skinned” boxing mate, a girl named Sojourner (who also happens to have two moms). In a particularly brilliant set piece, Leilani, who’s part Korean and a lesbian, and Elon, an androgynous black character, force Che to contemplate his interracial relationship by addressing the fetishization of black women.
This dark thriller is the 1956 film The Bad Seed meets 2016; readers will be simultaneously terrified when Rosa’s present and afraid to let her out of their sight. (Thriller. 14 & up)