Saturday, September 20, 2008

77. "My Sister, My Love" - Joyce Carol Oates

According to 19-year-old Skylar Rampike, you may or may not want to know who killed his 6-year-old sister, Bliss. But he may or may not tell you, anyway.

In typical Oates fashion, the book presents a stereotypical mommy/daddy/son/daughter family with grins and Gap t-shirts and gregarious lifestyles. Of course, this hides the inner nastiness that fills the empty spaces like caulk. This book is particularly awful, reminding the reader of Jon Benet Ramsey from the first few pages.

Bliss is a skating wonder-kind, a girl who, it is predicted, will someday be an Olympian. She won her first crown at the age of 4, then became over-coached and over-mothered in an attempt to create the perfect life - special shoes, special tutors, and special medications. Skylar, medicated to the brim himself, watches from the sidelines with love - no jealousy! honest! let me repeat it! - and the desire to make his parents proud of him, too, even after Bliss is found murdered in their basement.

While the comparison to the Jon Benet Ramsey case is obvious (little girl made up to be a living doll), the ironic pinch is the knocks at today's society - cell phones, ADHD (and all of its partner psychological disorders), and kid-meds are all thrown under the bus. Still, it was an obvious Oates playing Skylar - the voice neither teenager nor child, just cruel and ambitious.

3.5 out of 5.0 Blue Skies.