Michael C. Barrett
Reviewed by Megan Weiss, YA Reviewer for Reader Views (12/17)
“Little Bram” by Michael C. Barrett follows Skylar Bram and Kina Dunlap, who have just started high school. They share the same father, and thus are half-sisters. There’s just one catch: they’re mortal enemies. Ever since Kina moved to town in seventh grade, the two warring siblings and their friends have been in an epic prank war that was starting to reach embarrassingly cruel proportions. Just as their confrontations seem like they’re really coming to a head, the unthinkable happens: Kina’s grandfather falls ill and must move to a nursing home. Kina had come to live with her grandparents at age 12 after enduring a tough childhood with a neglectful mother. Now, Skylar and Kina will have to figure out how to live under the same roof – and in the same room – without killing each other.
“Little Bram” is an absolutely enriching, heart-warming story for young readers that should be on every teen girl’s to-be-read list. With a seemingly prime target audience toward girls aged 12 to 15, the novel follows the girls through their first tastes of what being a young adult feels like, through broken friendships, betrayals, relationships, and trying to navigate the social structure of a high school world. Skylar and Kina admiringly call a truce upon moving in together, and discover that now that they’re giving their sisterly relationship a chance, they actually have lot more in common than they originally thought. Before long, their separate worlds combine and their social circles start to merge. Kina’s friends become friends with Skylar’s friends, and Skylar is welcomed into a secret special club on behalf of Kina’s persuasion to upperclassmen holding positions of power.
Barrett speaks in a remarkably authentic voice for a male author writing in the point-of-view of young teenage girls. I have read a lot of young adult and teen novels throughout my life, and the realistic tone with which he places the story of Skylar and Kina is really what makes the book hit home, because it’s something that every teen girl can identify with. We’ve all known the awkward feelings of first love, the loss of a close friendship, and the sting of crushed dreams that come with entering high school and the real world beyond. “Little Bram” is a true testament to what it means to be a high school girl in the early 21st century, and the lessons it shares to readers about love, friendship, and respect will go far in actually helping readers further identify with their own selves.
“Little Bram” ended up being an incredibly surprising read for me, as I went into it not knowing what my expectations should be. Michael C. Barrett’s novel definitely deserves high praise for honestly appealing to teen readers in an authentic, emotionally relevant way.