Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Review: Half Brother

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel

Check it out here!

For thirteen years, Ben Tomlin was an only child. But all that changes when his mother brings home his new “baby brother” Zan-- an eight-day-old chimpanzee. Ben’s father, a renowned behavioral scientist, has uprooted the family to pursue his latest research project: a high-profile experiment to determine whether chimpanzees can acquire advanced language skills. Ben's parents tell him to treat Zan like a little brother. Ben reluctantly agrees. At least now he’s not the only one his father’s going to scrutinize. 

It isn't long before Ben is Zan's favorite, and Ben starts to see Zan as more than just an experiment. His father disagrees. To him, Zan is only a specimen, no more, no less. And this is going to have consequences. Soon Ben is forced to make a critical choice between what he is told to believe and what he knows to be true-- between obeying his father or protecting his brother from an unimaginable fate.

To be honest, I grabbed this book for its cover; I didn't realize it was about a chimp and thought it was hilarious (who doesn't think about their little brothers this way?)  The very literal cover translated to the tone of the book...if you're looking for a lot of laughs, you'd best look elsewhere. What you will get with this book, however, is a lot of soul and some really solid storytelling.  The relationship between Ben, his mom and dad, and Zan is pretty remarkable.  You see all of them grow and change and learn to understand each other a little more (there's also a good deal of teenage angst thrown in, too).  Fair warning, it's a pretty sad read...not all the time, but Oppel doesn't shy away from the cruel world of animal experimentation.  I found myself questioning my own opinions and asking what really separates humans from animals.  Oppel gives you a lot to think about with this book, and no easy answers. 

Reviewed by Sam
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