Reviews for My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

Booklist Reviews 2012 September #2
*Starred Review* Readers of Pitcher's debut should brace themselves: this book pulls no emotional punches. Jamie Matthews was five years old when his sister Rose was killed in a terrorist attack in London. While her urn on the mantelpiece dominates his family's life, he can barely remember her, much less love her; all he knows is the wreck that her death has left behind. When his parents split, Jamie moves with his father and sister Jas--Rose's surviving twin--and starts a new life and a new school in the Lake District. Jamie becomes friends with the clever and effervescent Sunya. But Sunya is a Muslim, and, as Jamie's dad constantly reminds him, "Muslims killed your sister." Jamie's mother has abandoned him, his father is sinking into alcoholism, and he's bullied at school--when it seems things can't get worse, Jamie endures a personal tragedy that puts the previous five years in perspective while finally offering some solace. Just as the macabre title straddles that fine line between funny and tragic, so does this book. As a study of grief's collateral damage, it deals with the topic realistically without losing sight of hope. Jamie is a frank narrator whose na├»vetÚ is tempered by the wisdom he acquires. He relies on his relationship with Jas for stability and eventually sets his own moral compass. An outstanding first novel. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
Five years after his older sister is killed in a London terrorist bombing, ten-year-old Jamie's dad moves the broken family to the countryside (without Mum). Jamie has to cope with bullying, his depressed father's racism, keeping his Muslim friend Sunya a secret from Dad, and finally, the death of his cat. Though crowded with emotional issues, the narrative is topical and freshly written.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 June #2
Jamie lives in a bizarre world, where a sister can die in a bombing, and the only way to bring Mum and Dad together is by auditioning for Britain's Biggest Talent Show. Five years after her death, Rose remains foremost in his parents' minds, "living" in her urn on the mantelpiece. His parents barely know Jamie, nor are they able to recognize Rose's twin, Jasmine, as an individual. Capturing the confusion of an optimistic but sensitive child navigating a tough situation without guidance, Jamie's narration is by turns comic and painful. His only friend is Sunya, whose headscarf billows behind her like a superhero cape and who helps Jamie fight the class bully. Yet Jamie cannot tell Sunya how his parents have abandoned the family: his mum to an affair; his dad to alcohol. The fact that Sunya is Muslim and therefore, according to Jamie's dad, responsible for Rose's death, is a brilliant counterpoint and an issue that Jamie must work through. Each character is believably flawed, and readers anticipate the heartbreaking scene when Jamie's plans for a family reunion fail. However, the final triumphant chapters of this striking debut demonstrate that even as Jamie's sorrows increase, so too, does his capacity for understanding, courage and love. Mum is gone, but Dad may recover, and Jasmine and Sunya are in Jamie's corner. Realistic, gritty and uplifting. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 July #4

In this powerfully honest, quirkily humorous debut novel, first published in the U.K., 10-year-old narrator Jamie and his family are still dealing with his sister Rose's death in a terrorist bombing five years earlier. After Rose's twin, Jas, stakes her independence by dying her hair pink on her 15th birthday, the family falls apart--their mother runs off with another man, and their alcoholic father moves from London to the Lake District with the children, where he lavishes attention on Rose's urn. (In one of many heartbreaking details, Rose's parents cremated part of their daughter's remains and buried the rest, a devastating metaphor for the family's ongoing inability to handle the tragedy.) Jamie's pivotal friendship with a Muslim girl, Sunya, is a standout. Pitcher tackles grief, prejudice, religion, bullying, and familial instability through the unsentimental voice of a boy who loves Spider-Man and Manchester United, misses his mother, and--truth be told--doesn't remember his dead sister all that well. The adults in Pitcher's story may be a mess, but the kids are all right. Ages 12-up. Agent: Catherine Clarke, Felicity Bryan Literary Agency. (Aug.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 August

Gr 8 Up--Jamie, who is about to celebrate his tenth birthday, barely remembers his sister who was killed in a terrorist attack five years earlier. His mother has recently abandoned him and his 15-year-old sister, Jasmine. Paralyzed by grief, his father has developed a rabid hatred of Muslims, become an alcoholic, and neglects his two surviving children. Jamie's parents have tried to force him to demonstrate a grief that he doesn't feel. After putting on a Spider-Man shirt he receives as a birthday present, he doesn't remove it for four months, hoping his mother will return and see him wearing it. After Jamie, his father, and sister move from London to the English countryside, he is an outsider at his new school and is bullied by classmates. The only child who befriends him is Sunya, a Muslim, which enrages his father. Jamie speaks about situations that he doesn't fully understand, but that teens will, and the contrast between Jamie's innocence/na├»vetÚ and the circumstances in which he finds himself are striking. His voice is compelling and believable, and his narrative is by turns heartbreaking and hysterically funny. This debut novel, set in the UK, will resonate with readers in post-9/11 America, many of whom will also relate to the issues of family alcoholism, bullying, and friendship that transcend cultural divisions. This is an important book that could be used in classes and book-discussion groups. Don't let it fall between the cracks.--Francesca Burgess, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

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