Graphix, $10.99 trade, ISBN-10 0545540607, August 2014
Raina can’t wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren’t quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she’s also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn’t improve much over the years, but when a baby brother enters the picture and later, something doesn’t seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all. Raina uses her signature humor and charm in both present-day narrative and perfectly placed flashbacks to tell the story of her relationship with her sister, which unfolds during the course of a road trip from their home in San Francisco to a family reunion in Colorado.
In this companion to Smile, Telgemeier focuses on her relationship with her sister when they were children. Although she asked, prayed, and pleaded for a little sister, once Amara arrived, everything seemed to go to you know where in a you know what. Amara seems to ruin everything just by existing and being herself. She hates everything Raina likes and loves everything (including snakes) Raina hates. Their one common ground is a love of drawing, but they compete over it rather than bonding. On a scenic but not air conditioned road trip to visit family, the sisters drive each other crazy, but the revelation that their parents might split up finally makes them realize that they have more in common than they thought.
This autobiographical and bittersweet sibling rivalry tale will hit the spot for anyone who ever finds their brothers or sisters annoying, which probably encompasses everyone who is not an only child. Adult readers will find plenty of nostalgia value here (old school braces! Sony Walkman!) while teen readers will thank the heavens for the mobile devices that make awkward family time a little easier to escape. While Amara is pretty sour, Telgemeier does not paint herself as the saintly sister, and you can almost feel her thinking, “Must be honest or sister will kill me…” Honest and adorable.
Recommend to: The author’s fans, fans of realistic fiction
To buy or not to buy: Great for YA collections