Published: January 6th 2011, David Fickling Books
Pages: 377 pages, paperback
Acquired: Sent for review by David Fickling Books
Summary (from Goodreads): ‘Ben Tomlin has been an only child for thirteen years. So when his research-scientist mother brings home an eight-week-old chimpanzee to raise as a human child, Ben’s life is turned upside-down.
It isn’t long before Zan’s infectious personality endears him to Ben and everyone around him, and the baby chimp becomes a vital part of their unusual family. But as the experiment draws to a close, Ben must take dramatic action – and the repercussions ricochet through home and community with devastating results.
Half Brother isn’t just an extraordinary story about a boy and a chimp. It is an extraordinary tale of humanity and family, prejudice and survival.’
My review: I first heard about Half Brother earlier in the year when a few of us book bloggers met with the Random House publicity team to discuss upcoming releases. Immediately this one grabbed my attention and I couldn’t get it out of my head.
When I received an ARC for review I was over the moon and couldn’t wait to start reading it. I fell in love with the story from page one and it just got better and better as the novel progressed. Half Brother is undoubtedly one of my favourite books of the year, if not of all time and I absolutely have to insist that you all read it when it comes out in January, even if you think it might not be your cup of tea.
The characters are wonderful and truly unique. Ben is so brilliantly whole and it’s clear the writer paid so much attention to detail when he was crafting the Tomlin family. Ben’s father is first and foremost a scientist, so when Ben and his mother are cooing over baby Zan, he treats the chimp like a test subject and nothing more. It’s really fascinating to see how the different family members bond with Zan. At first Ben is wary of the chimp but he’s soon charmed by him and within a few months they’re inseparable and Mrs Tomlin takes on the role of Zan’s surrogate mother perfectly. Throw in Peter – one of Zan’s student carers and you have a host of unforgettable characters.
The subplot of Ben’s mission to make Jennifer his girlfriend (the ‘Project Jennifer’ updates made me laugh out loud) is really entertaining and doesn’t detract from the main plot at all. In fact, Ben’s struggle to fit in in his new surroundings, with an entirely new group of peers, just added to the story as a whole.
However, Half Brother’s strength lays in its realism and this does make for heartbreaking reading at times. It’s not smooth sailing 100% of the time for Zan and his human family and the best advice I can give you is to have tissues at the ready. God knows when I finished the book I had mascara crusted to my cheeks and puffy eyes. Nice.
Kenneth Oppel’s touching writing will break your heart but the tears are worth it. Half Brother is an absolutely outstanding novel that is sure to be one of the huge hits of 2011. I honestly can’t recommend it enough. Why are you still here? Go and order a copy now!
Read if you liked...: Trash – Andy Mulligan
Total: 18/20 (A)