{Review} My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher (with Interview)

{Review} My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher (with Interview)My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on March 1, 2011
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 211
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5 Stars

Ten-year-old Jamie hasn't cried since it happened. He knows he should have - Jasmine cried, Mum cried, Dad still cries. Roger didn't, but then he is just a cat and didn't know Rose that well, really.

Everyone kept saying it would get better with time, but that's just one of those lies that grown-ups tell in awkward situations. Five years on, it's worse than ever: Dad drinks, Mum's gone and Jamie's left with questions that he must answer for himself.

This is his story, an unflinchingly real yet heart-warming account of a young boy's struggle to make sense of the loss that tore his family apart.

A modified version of this review and interview appeared a million years ago on our old site. We figured you still wanted to hear about this amazing, heartbreaking book, so we decided to repost here 🙂

We’ve had a really hard time deciding what to say about this book. So first, we want to tell you how it came about that we read it. We were invited to take place in the blog tour (on our old site), so we checked it out and thought that sounds like a depressing book.

When we were about a fourth of the way through, we honestly didn’t think we were going to finish it. On the surface, it’s not our kind of book at all. You know that we’re all about swoony boys and fluff and HEAs. But we know that a lot of our readers love angst, especially well-written angst, so we figured we better give this a shot and keep going.


That’s really all we can say. Because nothing else will give this story justice.

The 411:

This book is about how a family deals with the grief of losing someone. We’re going to tell you right now that they don’t take it well. His family basically falls apart, and through it all, we get ten-year-old Jamie’s take on things.

We find out that Rose was playing in a park with her family when she was killed by a terrorist bomb. As a result, their dad hates all Muslims (the bombers were Muslim), their mom has run off with a man from her support group, and their family is basically adrift. Jamie moves with his dad and sister to the country and starts at a new school. There, he meets Sunya.

I thought a cloud must have covered the sun ‘cos suddenly I was in the shade. I looked up and all I could see were two glittery eyes and dark brown skin and one hair wafting gently in the breeze. I said Go away and Sunya said Charming and she plonked herself next to me and grinned. I said What do you want and she said A word with Spider-Man. Then she opened her palm, which was surprisingly pink, and inside was a ring made out of Blu-Tack. Mum used Blu-Tack to stick art posters to the walls of her classroom but I’d never seen it at a jeweler’s. Sunya must have made the ring herself.

I’m one too she whispered…

He begins an unlikely friendship with Sunya, all while navigating through a school of people who don’t like him, watching his father waste away even more, dealing with his conflicting feelings about everything, and probably the most important thing to him: waiting for his mother to come and visit.

There are moments of triumph and moments of defeat. There is so much growth. There are funny moments, but even those are tinged with overwhelming sadness.

One day for homework I had to describe someone special and I spent fifteen minutes writing a whole page on my favorite soccer player. Mum made me rip it up and write about Rose instead. I had nothing to say so Mum sat opposite me with her face all red and wet and told me exactly what to write. She smiled this teary smile and said When you were born, Rose pointed at your willy and asked if it was a worm and I said I’m not putting that in my English paper. Mum’s smile disappeared. Tears dripped off her nose onto her chin and that made me feel bad so I wrote it down. A few days later, the teacher read my homework out loud in class and i got a gold star from her and teased by everyone else. Maggot Dick, they called me.

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What We Loved:

It’s utterly brilliant. There were several times that we reread passages, marveling at Pitcher’s ability to represent Jamie’s mindset so accurately. We wouldn’t be surprised at all if I found out she were actually a ten-year-old boy. It’s so real.

My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece. Well some of her does. Three of her fingers, her right elbow and her kneecap are buried in a graveyard in London. Mum and Dad had a big argument when the police found ten bits of her body. mum wanted a grave she could visit. Dad wanted a cremation so he could sprinkle the ashes in the sea.

My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece is set in London, and Jamie’s British, so there are a lot of Britishisms throughout the book, which we really loved.

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Um...Not So Much:

Our chief complaint is that he referred to soccer as soccer and not football. That kind of drove us nuts. We got an Advanced Review Copy, so we’re not sure if that’s in the final copy or if it’s just in the version that was released in the US.

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Bottom Line:

This book isn’t like anything we’ve ever read. We can’t say that this book is for everyone, because some of you are like us–you want fluff and swoon and happy. This doesn’t have that. Well, maybe it has a little teensy bit of that. But for those of you who want to read something that will make you think about things in a different light or will make you possibly take a moment to appreciate what you’ve got or will make you cry ugly-you-hope-no-one-ever-sees tears, then this is definitely a book you should read. It’s quick, but it will change you. We’re glad we read it, and think you’ll like it, too, even if it was *sobfest* angst.

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Swoony Boys Podcast Approved

Rating Report
5 Stars
5 Stars
5 Stars
5 Stars
0.5 Stars
Overall: 5

As we said previously, a long time ago, we got to chat with Anabel about My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece and are reposting some of that interview here:


The way you delve into the mind of a ten year old is amazing. How did you put yourself into that character so authentically?

Thanks very much! Kind of you to say! To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult. Jamie was so real to me that I found it quite easy to see the world from his point of view. Also, I am a huge fan of novels written in the first person, particularly loving quirky narrative voices, and I think this helped. Books like How I Live Now and The Catcher in the Rye are some of my favourites, so perhaps I picked up a few tips as I was reading these! I think the key was discipline. Early on in the process, I scribbled down a set of rules for Jamie’s idiolect (e.g. he speaks in short, staccato sentences; he doesn’t use flowery adjectives) and I made sure I stuck rigidly to these every time I wrote. Apart from that, it was just a matter of putting myself in Jamie’s shoes and letting my imagination take over.

He’s definitely very real to us. Was there anything specific that inspired your idea for this novel?

Absolutely! The direct inspiration for the novel was a film about 9/11 called United 93, a real-time re-enactment of events on board one of the hijacked planes. Randomly, I watched this film in Ecuador during a round-the-world trip, and went to bed in my youth hostel thinking about terrorism and how horrendous it must be to lose someone in such shocking and public circumstances. I tossed and turned, unable to sleep, and Jamie just sort of popped into my head. There he was – a little boy with ginger hair, a ginger cat and a sister who died in a terrorist attack. I knew at once I had to write his story, and started the book that night (much to the annoyance of my husband who struggled to sleep with the light on in our bedroom…).

Wow. Writing question: music, or no music? If yes – what kind?

No music, I’m afraid. I have tried several times, but even classical music is too much of a distraction for me. I have to work in silence!

Sometimes we’re like that, too! What can you tell us about Ketchup Clouds?

It’s about a fifteen-year-old girl who’s killed someone and completely got away with it. The novel starts a few months later, and Zoe is struggling to cope with the guilt. She can’t confess, because she’s terrified of getting into trouble, but she can’t keep it a secret a moment longer. One night after waking up in a cold sweat, she decides to write a letter to the only person who might understand what she’s going through, a criminal on Death Row who knows all about secrets and lies and murder. She pours out her heart in an anonymous letter, and this is how the novel begins. I can’t wait for people to read it!

Thank you for stopping by today, Annabel!

Thanks very much for having me! I hope everyone enjoys My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.

***About Annabel Pitcher***

Author Annabel PitcherAnnabel Pitcher studied English at Oxford and has since worked as a script writer and an English teacher. She lives in Yorkshire with her husband. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece was her first novel. She is a full-time writer.

Find Annabel Here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Check out the Trailer for My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece


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