Book review: Half a Sister by Kelly McKain

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Discovering that you have a long-lost half-sister would be a dream come true...wouldn’t it?

Twelve-year-old Hannah thinks it’s one of the coolest things that has ever happened to her.

She’s an only child and has always longed for a sister but, in the crazy mixed-up world of families, life can produce some strange and occasionally disturbing twists and turns.

Kelly McKain has to be one of our best children’s authors; as a former teacher, she has her finger firmly on the pulse of girls at that rather awkward stage of pre-adolescence.

Fully tuned in to their hopes and fears, their embarrassments and their search for identity and womanhood in a bewildering modern world, she weaves clever fables which not only answer questions and offer wise advice but also entertain and amuse.

Hannah loves her mum and dad but feels frustrated sometimes when they won’t let her join her friends for trips into town, wear make-up and hang around the skate park.

She’s also feeling hurt because her best friend Maya has teamed up with another girl, and mum and dad are arguing all the time.

It turns out that dad has a daughter in Paris that he never knew existed and she’s coming to stay with them because her mother has had a serious accident.

And when 15-year-old Ellie arrives, Hannah couldn’t be more excited – her half-sister is beautiful, sophisticated, dresses like a model and is simply AMAZING.

Best of all, dad has gone all soft and is giving both girls the kind of freedom that Hannah has been longing for.

But Ellie’s magic is not working on mum who has turned all ‘bustly and muttery’ and when Hannah discovers that her half-sister has a dark and deceitful side, she comes up with a perilous plan to get her out of their lives for good...

Half a Sister is a brilliant cautionary tale which highlights the dangers of making hasty judgments about people and reinforces the message that childhood happiness and security spring from loving and caring parents.

Written in a gossipy style that will strike a chord with youngsters, Half a Sister is a super book with a truly touching thread of home truths running through its warm and winsome heart.

Hannah is not just a girl in a special story but any ordinary 12-year-old whose certainties will inevitably tested by the raw realities of life...

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)