02 May 2012
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece; Annabel Pitcher
My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Jamie's sister, Rose, was killed by a terrorist bomb when he was five. Since then his family has essentially fallen apart. His mother met another man at grief counseling and has left the family to be with him, while his father is so grief-struck that he can't hold a job and has become an alcoholic. After Mom leaves, Dad gets a job offer in the Lake District and moves Jamie and Jasmine (Rose's surviving twin) away from London, the bad memories and - most important - the Muslims.
You do feel sorry for Jamie: he doesn't remember his sister well enough to really mourn her loss, instead resenting the focus on her (her urn gets pieces of birthday cake, Christmas presents, etc.) while his parents neglect him. Jasmine acts out, dying her hair pink on her (their) 15th birthday and severing the visual tie to Rose. That no one has actually noticed the distress the children are in is problematic.
When the only person in Jamie's class who will be nice to him is Sunya, a young Muslim girl, he knows that problems will arise at home. He is also the focus of some intense bullying by Daniel, the class goody-goody. While his teacher is spectacularly ignorant, it's odd that no one at the school is aware of Daniel's behavior issues before now. It's great that Jamie finally snaps and the consequences are relatively minor.
The biggest problems for me were the school's complete unawareness of the situation at home: what happened to his records from his previous school? Surely they would have a mention of Rose's death, right? And wouldn't a C of E school that is so religious have a uniform? It also rang false that there are mentions of piles of bills in the front carpet, yet no creditors call and no utilities are cut off... and neither Jamie nor Jas are paying the bills in their father's stead. Even less believable was Mom's disappearance with no word - via phone or postcard.
ARC provided by publisher.