Sisters by Raina Telgemeier has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
This graphic novel memoir opens with Raina, her parents and her younger siblings, Amara and Will, planning a road trip to a family reunion in the late 1980s. Mom will drive the kids, and Dad will fly out to join them. Raina’s family lives in a small apartment, and Raina seems to do nothing but fight with the sister she once longed for so desperately. The main story chronicles their road trip from California to Colorado, while frequent flashbacks tell the story of the family’s history.
Present-day Raina tries to make time pass quickly on the drive by listening to music on her Walkman. The road trip feels long, with a car breakdown, nightly camping, storms, bug attacks and too many meals consisting of mashed potatoes and Cup O’ Noodles.
When they arrive in Colorado, Raina discovers her much-admired cousin, Lindsay, has outgrown her and thinks she’s a geek. Younger cousins run wild. Adults fight about politics and parenting, and Raina doesn’t feel she belongs anywhere. She tries to get Amara to draw with her, but even Amara feels she’s being used since Raina can’t find anyone else to hang out with.
Flashbacks show young Raina as an only child, begging her parents for a sister. When she gets one, she realizes having to share a room and put up with annoying behavior isn’t so great. The girls decide they want pets, but they kill off several fish and a lizard before their parents decide to have another child. This time they get a little brother.
Now there are three kids in one room, and the crying baby leaves everyone sleep-deprived. Dad loses his job, which puts additional strain on the family. Amara learns Raina has a horrible fear of snakes. She decides she wants one for a pet. Mom and Dad later comply. They also give Raina something she really wants, a room of her own. That leaves Mom and Dad sleeping on the hide-a-bed in the living room. Amara’s snake escapes in their van, and Raina refuses to ride in it. Dad gets a new job.
As Raina, Mom, Amara and Will drive home from Colorado, the car breaks down. Mom and Will ride into town with a stranger to get help. The girls wait for four hours in a hot van, wondering if Mom is OK. Mom and Will finally return, and Mom regrets having left the girls alone.
During this trip, Mom also tells the kids Dad didn’t really fly to Colorado just because of work. She admits the two of them agreed to spend a little time apart this summer. The girls wonder whether their parents plan to split up. Amara makes a kind gesture of giving her last batteries to Raina so she can listen to her Walkman. Raina is touched and decides to take off her headphones so the whole group can talk and enjoy the rest of the trip together.
Mom and Dad name their son Will because they say he’s here by the Will of God. Amara responds to that comment by pretending to throw up.
When the family is trapped in a crummy cabin in a rainstorm, Amara suggests the area code they’re in is 666. Amara draws pictures for all of her cousins, depicting them as their spirit animals.
Mom and Dad are loving and understanding toward the kids. Mom subtly makes some disparaging comments about Dad before the kids learn they are having marital issues.
Heck appears once.
Lying: Raina lies and tells her sister she doesn’t have colored pencils because she doesn’t want to share them with Amara.
This story is based on the author’s life.
You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.