Our Sister, Again is a powerful, poignant and thought-provoking story that absolutely gripped me. This is a story which resonates with the deeply felt heartache of grief; a story of hope and acceptance; and, of family healing and supportive friendships.
For three years, 13-year-old Isla and her family have been grieving the death of her older sister, Flora. This grief has torn the family apart with her dad moving out as he could not accept a decision made by the rest of the family: a decision to join the Second Chances Homecoming Project which promised the return of Flora as an AI to live again with her family. In order to keep the Project top-secret, the whole community on the small island of Eilean Dearg in the Outer Hebrides have had to enter an agreement to keep the trial hidden from others. But what if not everyone is happy to keep Flora’s secret?
The ‘new’ Flora is an exact replica of Isla’s sister, having had a digital footprint uploaded using Flora’s extensive social media. Her mother and sisters are overjoyed to have her back, and are keen to help her fit in to island life again. However, her father does not believe it is possible to recreate a human, and wants the rest of his family to accept that Flora is gone. The theme of grief is heartfelt and poignant and permeates the story as family and community are dealing with varying stages of loss, acceptance and healing.
Not everyone on the island is accepting of the project and, when threats are directed towards Flora, Isla is determined to protect her sister from danger. Will Isla be able to solve the mystery of who is so set against Flora’s return that they may well be willing to cause her harm? Could someone close be capable of betraying their friendship, or is Flora not the only hidden secret on the island?
This is an incredibly powerful, compelling and absorbing read that raises issues around personhood, ethics and social media. As a teacher, I love opportunities to discuss ‘What if …?’ questions with my class, and there are so many that can be posed through this story. What if it is possible to recreate a human based on a digital footprint? What if we never had to say goodbye? What if your social media imprint defines you as a person? What if you were denied fundamental rights because of who you are? What if you had to fight for freedom from ownership and for your right to exist? This would be a brilliant class read with so much scope for fascinating book talk!
I really enjoyed the relationships at the heart of this story, and the changes within these. Flora is aware that she is a returnee and cares for her family, but she is also aware that she is different and, as the story progresses, she explores her individuality and humanity. The relationship between Isla and her younger sister Una is adorable with Isla having stepped into the role of big sister after the loss of Flora. There is also a gorgeous, supportive relationship which develops as Isla develops a crush on another girl in her football team which is just perfect and really made my heart melt.
And, that ending – it brought tears and smiles – and was exquisite! An absolute must-read and a brilliant addition to any school library.
Thank you to Little Tiger for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.