“Three weeks. Two sisters. One car.”
In a follow up to her popular autobiographical comic, Smile, Raina Telgemeier returns with Sisters, which centers on a three week road trip to Colorado for a family reunion. Raina is trapped in the car with her younger sister, Amara, the much wished-for younger sibling who turned out to be as much trouble as fun. Also along for the ride are Raina’s mother, and her younger brother, Will. In the back seat of their VW van, Raina and Amara squabble and try to entertain themselves on the long car ride, coming to the belated realization that their father hasn’t accompanied them on the trip because their parents aren’t getting along. Although Sisters follows up on Smile, it deals with different subject matter, and can also be read as a standalone.
The road trip to Colorado, told with Telgemeier’s usual bright colours and exaggerated facial expressions, is counterpointed by yellow-toned flashbacks that recount the story of Amara and Raina’s relationship. Beginning from Raina’s wish to be an older sister, to the reality of a cranky baby uninterested in playing with others, Telgemeier conveys a sibling relationship that was never quite what she expected. There are glimpses of common ground in a shared love of drawing, and tense disagreements over Raina’s fear of creepy-crawlies, while Amara loves the outdoors and wants a pet snake. At home, they struggle with sharing everything from their bedroom to the computer to their art supplies. Their teeth-grindingly realistic sibling rivalry will have readers simultaneously cringing and laughing along. And you’ll occasionally want to throttle the lot of them.
Being trapped inside a car provides a uniquely tense setting that will be instantly familiar to anyone who did family road trips or camping trips as child. Telgemeier’s depiction of the family reunion in Colorado Springs is similarly accurate. At the reunion, Raina finds herself awkwardly placed in the family dynamic, not cool enough for her older cousins, but too old to play with the little kids. The adults, of course, are busy arguing. She turns to her sister, only to find that Amara is too hurt by the rejection of the preceding weeks to accept her olive branch. Sisters is the ups and downs of sibling relationships perfectly captured.
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