Abington High School's Student Newspaper

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Book Review: “Half Brother”

Competing for love with a chimpanzee

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Book cover

Book cover

Scholastic

Scholastic

Book cover

Lauren Baker-Tubbs '20, Contributor

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“Half-Brother,” a novel by Kenneth Oppel, deals with issues of love, family, and devotion. Ben is an only child until the age of 13, when his scientist parents decide to raise a baby chimp named Zan, while teaching it American Sign Language (ASL).

The book is narrated by Ben, the teenage boy who is surprised by the change that recently affected his life. The narration is in first person which helps the audience see into Ben’s mind, giving readers a front row seat on his adventure. Because Ben narrates the story, his opinion always seems to be the right one, unlike in third-person narration that shows the points of view of all characters. However, Ben’s first-person narration adds a level of believability, and his dry humor proves to be quite witty, keeping the laughter alive throughout the story.

Ben sees his father as a heartless scientist looking for results.”

— Lauren Baker-Tubbs '20

Published in 2010 by Scholastic, “Half Brother” is easy to read and connect with.  A relatable relationship in the book was that between Ben and his father, who is one of Ben’s main frustrations in the story, just like parents can be the frustrations of many teens today. In Ben’s eyes, his father is the enemy, moving his family to a weird new town in Canada, and bringing home a chimpanzee to seemingly “replace” his son. Ben sees his father as a heartless scientist looking for results.

Love is an important topic in the book, as Ben wants to feel love from his father. Lots of teenagers can relate to this struggle, wanting to be accepted by their parents, creating a recognizable conflict for the book, allowing teens to connect to the story.

“Half-Brother” pulls at the reader’s heartstrings as Zan the chimpanzee learns more ASL. There are also silly family centered scenes like a birthday party and a cookout that let the reader see Ben beginning to change his view of Zan. Closer to the end of the story, decisions are made regarding Zan, creating some heart wrenching scenes.

“Half-Brother” is a great 375-page book for teens that conveys a powerful message about love and the bond between siblings, even bonds in less conditional relationships like this one.

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Book Review: “Half Brother”