Sunday, 14 August 2011

Review: Half Brother

Title: Half Brother
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: August 24th, 2010
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

In the summer of 1973, Ben Tomlin and his family are moving across the country so that his scientist parents can adopt a baby chimp and raise it as a human. The aim of the project is to raise a chimpanzee as a member of their family and teach it sign language. His mother brings the chimp home when he is 8 days old, and they name him Zan. At first, Ben is jealous of the project and bitter about having to leave Toronto for Victoria. As time passes, he finds himself loving Zan like a brother. As Ben deals with typical problems of a thirteen-year-old (first crushes, fitting in at school and struggling to keep his grades up) he is also becoming very involved in taking care of Zan. When the project doesn’t receive an important grant, the question of what will happen to Zan is raised. To Ben, Zan is family. But to his father, Zan is an animal and a scientific specimen that you shouldn’t become too attached to. Ben would do anything to protect his baby brother, but will it come to that?

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started Half Brother. I was a bit worried that it would be too young for me, since Ben is thirteen when the book begins. It didn’t take long for my worries to disappear entirely. I was really impressed with this book. I think it would be perfect for a teen book club, since it raises a lot of questions that would be good for discussion. Oppel addresses ethical issues, the meaning of family, animal rights and what makes us human. Like Ben, as a reader I quickly became attached to Zan. I loved Peter and Ben’s mom the most after him. Ben was a realistic protagonist who I liked overall, although at times his obsession like crush was a bit creepy. However, I loved his loyalty and love for Zan.

Half Brother was a touching and interesting story that really made you think. I enjoyed it and I’d definitely recommend it.


“Sometimes we just listened to the sounds the world was making.”

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