Although I love it when the title forms a sentence, no sisters and no serial killers will be harmed in this post (although perhaps they should be). We’ll be exploring the writerly lessons the Writer Unboxed Breakout Novel Dissection crew learned from Oyinkan Braithwaite’s breakout novel, My Sister, the Serial Killer (MSTSK). But first, something we appreciated as readers:
This novel is not about the serial killer.
It’s not about figuring out who the serial killer is, or whether she’ll get caught, if a particular victim will be found in time, or why she does what she does. At least one Dissector wasn’t going to read it until someone let slip that the novel is actually about the sister of the serial killer, about her moral choices and her change. This was a fresh enough concept that it felt like a relief–yet the novel itself was anything but a relief. It was full of tension. Which is a writerly lesson after all:
Take a trope and tell it slant.
That tip of the hat to Emily Dickinson provides a good segue to three things we thought Braithwaite did particularly well:
- The writing and plotting is tight and spare yet dense in the way that poetry is (which makes sense, since Braithwaite is also a poet).
- Braithwaite delivers the setting in deft slashes, giving us a rich picture of the main character’s social and cultural context, as well as her family situation.
- The ending is not uplifting yet it was still a satisfying read.