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BABY SISTER by Marilyn Sachs Kirkus Star


by Marilyn Sachs

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1986
ISBN: 0192716921
Publisher: Dutton

The search for personal identity and romance are common themes of many YA novels. In a reveling portrait of two sisters and their ambivalent relationship, this story brings a fresh perspective to the roles of dominance and love, power and weakness in the family. Penny's worship of her smart, popular older sister Cass is extreme; as the baby sister she exists on the excitement of reading Cass' diary and comforting Gary, Cass? steady boyfriend, during the couple's frequent quarrels. Cass, the center of the household, periodically tries to get Penny to work harder on homework and dress in outrageous styles. But Cass does dole out some good advice when she tells Penny, "You can't ever be like somebody else. You have to find out what the real you is and let it all hang out. You have to take a few chances." The trouble begins when Penny, discovering a skill and interest in sewing, develops a romance with Gary after Cass leaves for college. Cass lets Penny clown when the younger girl visits her sister at Harvard to get advice—the Final shattering of Penny's illusions about her "wonder-ful" older sister. When Penny announces her engagement to Gary, Cass blows up and reveals her need for Penny's adoration and praise. Characters are well developed, and the truth that one can't copy another's personality is an important one for teen readers. In her diary in a moment of lucid self-knowledge, Cass writes, "I'm not perfect. I'm arrogant, inconsiderate and intolerant. But I want my life to expand outside of myself I want my work to be more than me." Young readers may not understand the irony of such a selfish character holding such grandiose goals. But it is in the humanity of these characters and their contradictions, as well as their values, that Sachs has made an ordinary story extraordinary.