cover image Smaller Sister

Smaller Sister

Maggie Edkins Willis. Roaring Brook, $22.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-76742-4

Willis’s nuanced story of two white sisters navigating the middle school social minefield paints a realistic but hopeful portrait of the siblings’ relationship with anorexia nervosa. Lucy, who is a rising fifth grader at the story’s beginning, has always idolized her older sister Livy, only 20 months her senior. But when they start at a new school, they drift apart as Livy, rocked by the sudden change, exerts control by throwing away food and constantly exercising. The girls’ parents intervene with love, occasional missteps, and a bevy of professionals, but Livy continues to lose weight, experiencing dysmorphia and suicidal ideation. Gradually, Livy begins to recover—just in time for a move to Boston that causes the sisters’ well-being to seesaw. Lucy loses her youthful confidence under the punishing gaze of the new school’s mean girls and starts trying to lose weight, telling her sister, “I can be better than you at this, Olivia.” But Livy’s support, combined with a confidence-boosting summer at theater camp and a couple of good friends, helps Lucy climb out of the dark hole of self-loathing. With ample empathy and expressive watercolors that depict a range of body types and skin tones, Willis’s cathartic debut foregrounds a deep sisterly bond at a crossroads. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jennifer Rofé, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (May)