The Good Sister by Jamie Kain Review

Monday, September 15, 2014

Title: The Good Sister
Author: Jamie Kain (Twitter)
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: October 7, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

The Kinsey sisters live in an unconventional world. Their parents are former flower-children who still don’t believe in rules. Their small, Northern California town is filled with free spirits and damaged souls seeking refuge from the real world. Without the anchor of authority, the three girls are adrift and have only each other to rely on.

Rachel is wild. Asha is lost. Sarah, the good sister, is the glue that holds them together. But the forces of a mysterious fate have taken Sarah’s life in a sudden and puzzling accident, sending her already fractured family into a tailspin of grief and confusion. Asha has questions. Rachel has secrets. And Sarah, waking up in the afterlife, must piece together how she got there.
What I love about a good contemporary novel is that it can often transcend the genre and really speak to fans of all genres. It's a tricky feat balancing those abilities and still managing to present a cohesive storyline though, so I'm always a bit wary when a novel surfaces and suggests that it might do just that. The Good Sister by Jamie Kain is a novel that took me by surprise in a few ways - not the least of which is the fact that it looked like an adult novel to me before I read the premise. I was also surprised to see a novel written in the vein of Jodi Picoult for the younger lot. Offering readers a true taste of contemporary - full of life, love, drama and family - it's the type of book that will linger with you.

Multiple points of view are often quite tricky for me, in large part because they offer a bunch of little tastes but never seem to fulfill me entirely. The Good Sister ups the ante, giving us three distinct points of view - one for each of the sisters. Naturally, I was concerned that this would make the story less cohesive and more jumbled. I was surprised, however, to find that it actually knit the seams of the story together very nicely, giving us a glimpse into the minds of Rachel, Asha and Sarah. We seem to work through the story in a less-than-chronological order at times, and we're able to see their cohesive family unit splinter and fragment apart, all the while understanding the ties that bind and those that separate them in the end. It's powerful, emotional and tragic in the most beautiful of ways. 

I think what kept me riveted throughout the novel though was just how dysfunctional the family was. At times, I wanted to shake their mother out of her flower-child demeanor to see just how broken her living daughters were. I wanted their absent father to understand how his cold veneer hardened their broken hearts and helped shatter their family unit. The Good Sister made me uncomfortable…plain and simple. It's like watching a train wreck before your eyes and feeling like you're simply a casual bystander. The reason it managed to captivate me though is the fact that these three girls - all so vastly different - longed for one thing. They wanted peace, and that peace is hard to come by.

There is a mystery element to The Good Sister that's sort of over-arching throughout the plot, and it's woven nicely through the drama and through each sister's perspective. I worried it might distract me, but it actually served to enhance the story in the end and, despite the fact that these Rachel and Asha broke my heart with their broken selves, I was invested from start to finish. The only flaw to the story that I found is that, while it has a conclusive ending, I think it could have been enhanced upon, and I still wanted more. In the end though, I give it a definitive 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

23 comments:

  1. Really like the sound of this one - especially the mystery - it sounds pretty expertly woven into the story. The cover of this one caught my eye a while back and it's been on my radar ever since then!

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  2. I'm not the biggest fan of contemporary fiction myself, but the way you've described the book and the story... I think I'm definitely adding it to my wish list for the next time I feel like reading contemporary!
    Thank you for putting this one on my radar, Melissa!

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  3. Awesome review! This one is new to me, but I'll be adding it to my TBR list. I like the sound of it and I'm glad the multiple point of views worked for you…sometimes that can be a challenge for me, but I'm glad it worked. Plus, the dysfunctional family and the mystery sounds pretty captivating!

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  4. This was definitely not on my radar Melissa, but you have me wanting to pick it up for sure. Multiple POVs are really tricky for me as well and more often than not don't work, but I'm glad that was not the case for you with this book. Getting inside the mind of each sister seems necessary, and I think I'll enjoy getting a feel for each of them. I think I'm going to hate their mother a bit though:)

    Also, I just finished Salt & Storm. I'll be interested to see what you think.

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  5. This sounds very interesting! It can be really hard to read about dysfunctional families, but they are so much a part of reality that I think it's an important subject for YA to focus on.

    Also, I'm with you---from the cover, I assumed that it was an adult novel. I even went back to check the genre you had given it again after reading through the blurb.

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  6. This sounds quite an interesting read, I have read quite a few Jodi Picoult books and always been a big fan. Although I do have to space out how often I read her books because contemporary reads get a little heavy (subject matter) for me sometimes. However, I have seen this book around and I am almost certainly intrigued now!

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  7. I'm with you re. multiple POVs. Sometimes, it really is too muddled. But when it works, it can really work well. Might be a bit too drama-y for me but it's definitely intriguing!

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  8. I really love how you constantly pick up uncommon novels and then make me want to pick them up too. Whether it be sci-fi or contemporary, I almost never recognize the titles you review but then my TBR just increases afterwards. ;) Lovely review, Melissa, and I have a feeling I'll love this one too.

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  9. This sounds like a beautiful story, Melissa. I was a bit worried when you mentioned multiple POVs, but I calmed down once you mentioned that it actually worked together. I love reading books about sibling relationships, so I think I would really like this.
    Gorgeous review! :)

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  10. This was not under my radar either, but your review has really intrigued me! This sounds like an excellent novel, and I can't wait to give it a try.

    I completely agree with what you've said about multiple POVs. They can work wonderfully if each POV is personified and distinct to match the character speaking; but in the hands of an beginning writer they can be a disaster; mashing together and becoming one giant narrative. I am so glad this one handled that well!

    Thanks for sharing, and, as always, BRILLIANT review! <3

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

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  11. I need this book! Ah! Contemporary + sisters + dysfunction. My life. Lol. I really really want to read this. thank you so much for a great review, babe!

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  12. Great review. I also assumed this was going to be adult fiction before I read the premise. I love a good contemporary and a mystery element always helps to keep me reading. This sounds so good, I definitely need to get my hands on this. Great review :)

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