Allie's big sister, Leah, is dead. She didn't die in a car accident or from some horrible, incurable disease. No, instead, Leah committed suicide by swallowing a deadly concoction of prescription pills mixed with alcohol. Allie's mad; not just because Leah's gone, but because she didn't take Allie with her. She didn't honor the Sister Pact.
Teen suicide, familial abuse, and excessive abuse of drugs and alcohol all come together to make The Sister Pact a crushingly emotional read. The story is told entirely from Allie's point-of-view, both in flashbacks and in present tense. Slowly, almost infuriatingly, the plot unfolds through Allie's unreliable narration as she deals with her own drug abuse, catching glimpses of her dead sister, navigating the proverbial minefield that exists between her pill-popping mother and her authoritarian father, struggling to find herself in her art, and attempting to dodge her mixed-up feelings for Max, the lusty bad boy who uses her and confuses her.
Where The Sister Pact shines is in making the reader want to know "What happens next?" I wanted to know what led up to Leah deciding her life was no longer worth living, and more about their mother and father's relationship, and whether Allie and her mother would ever get to a healthy point, individually and in their relationship with each other. I can't say I was completely invested in Allie as a character, but I was certainly interested in her journey. One aspect I really enjoyed was the description of Allie's art, and her ability to express her emotions through her painting.
Where The Sister Pact falters is in the annoying, repetitive behavior that Allie exhibits in regard to her drug abuse and relationship with Max. There were scenes that seemed to be on repeat, and I just wanted to reach into the book and give Allie a nice tight smack. The people around her were just as bad! Her relationships with others were entirely toxic, with the exception of Nick, who is the obligatory "good boy" to Max's "bad boy." I also eventually became disturbed by Leah's constant appearances as a ghost in Allie's life. There's a long dialogue between them toward the end which I feel might trigger some deep-rooted emotions in others who have lost loved ones to suicide. When someone dies, especially in such a manner, there are no answers, no ghosts from the grave, no epiphanies to be had. I understand that this is fiction, but at times, it became too much for me to buy.
Regardless of the negatives I've listed, The Sister Pact certainly makes an impact, and the weightiness of Allie and Leah's stories will stay with you long after you've turned the page. If you enjoy dark, gritty contemporaries, with a hint of the fantastical, The Sister Pact may be right up your alley. Find it in bookstores on November 1, 2015.
Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of this publication from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.