I have never been so scared by a little girl–a fictional one, no less (except maybe those creepy girls in the Shining)! A few years ago, I went through a phase where psychopathy and sociopaths intrigued me deeply (don’t get me wrong I’m a good noodle I swear!), and I read many books on this topic. A twisted, heartless child psychopath just makes everything so much more exciting, and I couldn’t wait to see what devious acts she could come up with.

Things I Loved:

  • Psychopaths
  • Boxing
  • Loving, tortured older brother (I kinda wanted an older brother when I was little)
  • Creepy, potentially murderous little girls?!
  • NYC
  • Sassy friends
  • Diversity


  • Che has always been the older brother sitting on a powder keg that is his sister Rosa. Ever since he noticed Rosa’s strange behavior, he has been on guard and getting increasingly agitated. When he caught her killing insects, he made her promise not to kill, and that is only the beginning of many promises. Not to kill animals, or make others kill animals, or to say she wants to kill someone, or to kill someone, etc. Although Rosa loves to keep promises, she always finds loopholes to wiggle out of one, and Che is constantly trying to hold her back from harming the world. Instead of protecting his sister from the world, Che finds himself protecting the world from her.
    • I liked how Che also makes a part of his life separated from taking care of Rosa and is truly himself during boxing. Although his parents disapprove of violence and forbid him to spar, he ironically found peace, comfort, and a suitable outlet for his emotions in boxing. I appreciated the descriptions of him sparring with others, even though I know nothing about it.
    • I loved that despite everything Rosa did to him, Che still loves her and doesn’t give up on her. I know it sounds trite, but it shows how much humanity Che has even in such horrid circumstances. Not that I’m saying he doesn’t fight back by exposing her as the little monster she truly is. (I also enjoyed these parts enormously).
    • (Also, Che is a list person. I’m a list person. We can be friends.)
      1. Keep Rosa under control
      2. I want to spar
      3. I want a girlfriend
      4. I want to go home

See? priorities

“Rosa is pushing all the buttons.”

  • Rosa is a menacing existence that is lurking behind everything, watching and waiting. With everything she says and does, she definitely doesn’t feel like a ten-year-old! She shows surprising precociousness and callousness very early on in her childhood, and despite many visits to developmental specialists and psychologists, she never learned to love or even care for anyone, only to manipulate. Even her brother Che is merely “useful” to her. With her golden ringlets and dimples, she can wrap anyone around her fingers by simply smiling and working her charms. Only a few are not fooled by her manipulation, but sadly the parents don’t notice or care enough to stop her from destroying the lives of those around her.
    • When she moves to NYC with her family into an exciting new life with their rich friend, the McBrunights, Rosa’s powers become magnified and even more violently compelling. She is way more focused on not getting caught instead of BEING A GOOD PERSON.
    • Although I get the creeps every time she appears, I like her interactions with Che and how unrelentingly honest she is with him, showing him all the dark, inhuman sides of her. It’s those instances that convince the readers of her monstrous nature so we know we’re not the bad ones accusing a ten-year-old of being a monster.

‘I can be creepy in front of you.’

Supporting Characters

  • Sojourner is a girl Che meets at the gym, and I love how strong and sunny she is. She’s “the only good thing that’s ever happened to Che, ever,” (not a quote but could be) and I dig their little romance. With her badass boxing side and her feminine, tulip dress side, Sojourner is a 3-D love interest I can get behind. However, I did have issues with her at the end of the novel where
    Click for spoilers (or don’t!)

    she breaks up with Che because he didn’t tell her about Rosa. I mean, he’s only known her for what, several weeks? And she expects him to choose her over his own family?! GIRL???.

    Other than that, I’m quite satisfied with how Sojourner brightened up the novel a wee bit. (Also I love her name.)

  • Leilani is the older sister of the McBrunights, and she’s also quite well-developed character-wise. Running a fashion-esque empire since the age of 12, she is filled with ennui and sass against the world. I love how she is all talk but has a soft heart and a funny ugly laugh. She’s like the fairy godmother/sass master to Che, buying him expensive clothes to replace his “gym rat” look. What’s more, she can see through Rosa’s act and is quick to support Che when he confided in her about his fears of Rosa’s influence. She is also incredibly caring to her twin younger sisters, almost as a mother to them since their real parents are too preoccupied with other stuff to take care of them.

“They’re calling being black a look? How progressive of them.”

  • Maya and Seimone are twins who are separated when Rosa steps between them, brewing a toxic triangle that ends in tragedy. I’m not too impressed by these characters, but twins do always lend an eerie air to anything (sorry if I offend anyone! I know amazing people who are twins, but why are they always so crêpe-y in literature?!).
  • Not gonna name everybody but Che has so many wonderful friends who support him and make him laugh! A+ for friendship in this book.
  • I did have issues with the “parents who don’t care/believe their kids” trope because it’s so overdone in the kids’ and YA genre. Although the book offers an explanation at the end, I find it very hard to believe that the parents would be this blind to Rosa’s obviously unnatural behaviors. Che’s parents drag their family all over the world starting businesses and don’t even consider giving their kids a stable upbringing or education, and I feel like it’s only here to emphasize how much responsibility to raising Rosa Che must shoulder as a child himself. Give me loving, invested parents any time now. I’ve been waiting since Disney’s moms started disappearing.

Worldbuilding + Pacing

  • The story is set in NYC, and although I can’t tell how authentic it really is (New Yorkers, help me out here), the colorful descriptions flesh out the setting nicely. I’m delighted by all the trips Che makes with his friends to stores, restaurants, and parks. No tourist’s traps in this book!
  • Although this isn’t so much a part of the setting as it’s character development, I love how Australian this book is. I don’t come across many Australian YA books, and the peculiar phrases and words add a lot to Che’s foreignness and cuteness.
  • The pacing for this book is kinda slow, but it picks up towards the latter half of the story. I keep waiting for something bloody and violent to happen, with a little psychopath running around and all, and the climax does not disappoint. There’s a plot twist at the end, too, so look forward to that!

Final Thoughts

On the whole, this was quite a thrilling read! I thoroughly enjoyed being freaked out by a smol person, fangirled over Che, and learned what “tracky dacks” means. Besides presenting us with a child psychopath, this book also includes enviable friendships with lots of offhand diversity mixed in there. So if you like psychopathy (for research only), boxing, and NYC, give My Sister Rosa a go!

My Sister RosaGleeful Grace book review of My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

What if the most terrifying person you’d ever met was your ten-year old sister?
‘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?