Review: My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier


What if the most terrifying person you’d ever met was your ten-year old sister? A spine-chilling psychological thriller from one of Australia’s finest YA authors.

‘I promise,’ said Rosa. ‘I won’t kill and I won’t make anyone else kill.’

I can’t see the loophole. Since the guinea pig there’s been nothing. Months now without Rosa killing as much as a mosquito.

As far as I know.

Che Taylor has four items on his list: 1. He wants to spar, not just train in the boxing gym. 2. He wants a girlfriend. 3. He wants to go home. 4. He wants to keep Rosa under control.

Che’s little sister Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and so good at deception that Che’s convinced she must be a psychopath. She hasn’t hurt anyone yet, but he’s certain it’s just a matter of time. And when their parents move them to New York City, Che longs to return to Sydney and his three best friends. But his first duty is to his sister Rosa, who is playing increasingly complex and disturbing games. Can he protect Rosa from the world – and the world from Rosa?

My Sister Rosa will have you on the edge of your seat from the very first page to the last.



One thing I can say after finishing My Sister Rosa is that I have never read a book like this before. It was well-written, delightfully creepy and discussed a unique and interesting concept in YA literature. When I picked up this book, I was expecting what I usually find in most psychological thrillers- a fast-paced plot with underdeveloped characters. I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-paced story with some great character depth from our narrator, Che.

We start the story with Che and Rosa moving to New York. They have moved around most of their lives, due to their parents starting and failing multiple businesses. Originally from Australia, Che has a hard time adjusting. He misses his friends, his gym and his old life. On top of that, Che’s first priority is taking care of his younger sister, Rosa. Except Rosa is not a normal younger sister, she is a sociopath. Che and Rosa have creepy private conversations where he  makes her promise to not do “bad things” because Rosa has no empathy and does not fully understand the difference between right and wrong. Che realizes the truth even though the rest of the family does not understand: Rosa is a ticking bomb and it is only a matter of time before she does something unforgivable. However it is also realistic because despite what Che knows about Rosa, he still loves her. As twisted as that may be, she is still his baby sister. 


“Didn’t anyone ask you where your parents are?”
“They asked. Especially about my parents.”
“What did you tell them?”
“I said I ate them.”
“Jesus, Rosa.”

What I really enjoyed about this book is that is was more than Che and Rosa’s creepy conversations, and more than Rosa doing morally questionable things. There was Che’s dysfunctional parents and infuriating mother who was constantly in denial about their situation. Che’s life revolved around boxing, although his parents never wanted him to spar because it was considered violent. There was also Che’s budding relationship with fellow boxer Sojourner, and how he balanced that while keeping Rosa a secret. There was a colorful cast of characters aside form Che and Rosa, including Leilani, Elon, Maya and Seimone. They all contributed to the plot- Che trying to adjust to life as a teenage boy while carrying this burden of his psychopath sister. 

Rosa’s condition was not overdone and actually very believable. She was creepy, unfeeling and incredibly intelligent. She never did anything *too* bad- she stole things, lied, manipulated and Che felt responsible for keeping her in line, always fearing the worst. As the reader, I absolutely bought into Che’s worries and also feared the worst from Rosa. Che’s depiction as a teenage boy was incredibly realistic and normal that I found myself following the story and hoping everything would turn out okay. However, the entire story has this overshadowing sense of foreboding, and I just knew something was going to happen.

I was not expecting the ending at all but in retrospect it was really fitting with the overall feel of the story. Rosa’s depiction of a sociopath was frighteningly realistic (not that I’m an expert, but I definitely bought into the story) and Larbalstier did an excellent job of creating a cohesive, well-developed psychological thriller.




11 thoughts on “Review: My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier”

  1. I need to read this. Mainly because there is a difference people don’t know about between sociopaths and psychopaths. Both feel no empathy. Both can do bad things. But Sociopaths are charming where psychopaths are not. Bundy was a sociopath. Gacy was a psychopath.
    Usually, sociopaths don’t kill. But they can if they feel they need to. Chilling, right? I read this book called The Sociopath Next Door and there’s more of them than you know.
    I need to read this bc sometimes that line gets blurred and everyone is called a sociopath when they are a psychopath. I want to see if the author got it right.
    Sounds like a good read to me! 😂😉

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Good! I really want to read it.
        Yes, the terms get used interchangeably a lot. There are some schools of thought that think they are the same but I think psychopaths are more likely to be violent than sociopaths…sociopaths are manipulative and unfeeling, but most of the time don’t need to be violent. I also read another fascinating book called “Confessions of a Sociopath” and it was creepy and wrong, but it explained a lot of the misconceptions we have and that sociopaths can fit in much easier and assimilate more than a psychopath, who has very little self-control. It makes me shiver just thinking about it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m going to look that book up! I find this topic fascinating. What I loved about this book is that Rosa’s behavior seemed realistic to me. It’s not like she was running around doing violent things- it was more subtle than that. She would steal things, make odd comments. She would watch how other people reacted to things and change her behavior to get the reaction she wanted because she didn’t understand how to act in certain social situations. And of course she’s an adorable little girl so it makes it all the more creepy!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ooh! This sounds AWESOME! And the topic made me interested too, and that’s why I read so much about it.
        I’m grabbing this book…it was on sale on Kindle a little bit ago but I hesitated. Now I’m going to have to wait again!

        Liked by 1 person

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