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The September Sisters
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The September Sisters

4.0 11
by Jillian Cantor

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Abigail Reed and her younger sister, Becky, are always at each other's throats. Their mother calls them the September Sisters, because their birthdays are only a day apart, and pretends that they're best friends. But really, they delight in making each other miserable. Then Becky disappears in the middle of the night, and a torn gold chain with a sapphire heart


Abigail Reed and her younger sister, Becky, are always at each other's throats. Their mother calls them the September Sisters, because their birthdays are only a day apart, and pretends that they're best friends. But really, they delight in making each other miserable. Then Becky disappears in the middle of the night, and a torn gold chain with a sapphire heart charm is the only clue to the mystery of her kidnapping. Abby struggles to cope with her own feelings of guilt and loss as she tries to keep her family together. When her world is at its bleakest, Abby meets a new neighbor, Tommy, who is dealing with his own loss, and the two of them discover that love can bloom, even when it's surrounded by thorns.

This exquisitely written first novel illustrates life as it truly is—filled with fear and danger, hope and love, comfort and uncertainty.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In her memorable debut novel, Cantor follows a family so devastated by the disappearance of a daughter that it never fully recovers. One summer morning, Abby, 12, and her parents wake to find Abby's 10-year-old sister Becky missing, with no clues about who took her or why. In the days that follow, all three undergo the scrutiny of their suspicious community and baffled police, and as the months pass, Abby's mother spirals into a detached depression as her father becomes consumed with searching for a daughter he refuses to believe is dead. Abby, ostracized at school, finds a quiet, supportive friendship with Tommy, a neighboring teenager, which develops into a tentative first love. The recurring intrusion of Abby's memories of her sister and her wide range of emotions (ranging from resentment and uselessness to heartache) make the story startlingly real. ("It began to dawn on me that dead was better than missing, vanished, disappeared. At least dead was final.") Cantor offers no happy ending, but a poignant final scene shows that, despite distance and circumstance, Abby remains connected to her sister. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
VOYA - Pam Carlson
Abby Reed is almost thirteen the night her eleven-year-old sister Becky is taken from her bedroom. Following their initial shock and grief, Abby's family disintegrates. Her father barely speaks while her mother falls into a self-absorbed depression. Abby is filled with guilt over always having resented Becky being their parent's favorite. Classmates shun her, believing the rumor that the Reeds had something to do with Becky's disappearance. The arrival of their next-door neighbor's grandson Tommy allows Abby to heal a bit and shift her attention beyond her damaged family. The two spend much of their time together, occasionally kissing until things go almost too far and her father walks in on them. As punishment, Tommy is banished back to Florida with his mother. From then until the time Becky's body is found more than two years later, only new students befriend Abby. The focus shifts from the search for Becky about a quarter of the way through the story to the family left behind, resulting in a loss of momentum. The continuing hostility of former friends toward Abby seems a bit unbelievable, as does her parents' inability to recognize the needs of their remaining daughter. The telling is so slowly drawn out that readers experience every minute of that time along with Abby. The actual finding of Becky in a nearby back yard as the victim of a now deceased neighbor is almost an epilogue. Reviewer: Pam Carlson
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
With birthdays only a day apart in September, almost-thirteen-year-old Abigail and almost-eleven-year-old Becky are "the September twins." The only problem is that rather than sharing the closeness their mother expects, they hate each other, or at least think they do—until the one quiet night that Becky inexplicably disappears from her room, never to be found again. The story of Becky's presumed kidnapping and murder has the same page-turning urgency of the now-decade-old story of little Jen Benet Ramsey's murder, with the added desperation that Abigail and her family do not know for sure whether or not Becky is dead until the very end of the book. As in so many such tragedies, Abby's loss of Becky is compounded by ostracism at school, police suspicion of her family (particularly directed toward her suicidal mother), and the unraveling of her parents' once-close marriage. First novelist Cantor records the days, months, and years of Becky's always present absence with meticulous honesty, giving Abby exactly the right blend of painful emotions, even including the shameful hope that her sister will be found dead so that what is left of her real, regular life can resume. Cantor's unflinching sensitivity makes the novel much more than tabloid voyeurism: a painful yet ultimately hopeful meditation on sisterhood and survival. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 6-10

When her younger sister is kidnapped, 13-year-old Abby endures the suspicion flung at her family and her loss of friends at school by befriending Tommy, a neighbor's tacitly angry biracial grandson. Both are social outcasts in this small Pennsylvania town, and their mutual support gives them the strength to weather their loneliness, turning eventually into a quiet romance. Abby's voice, resigned and mildly plaintive, rings true, as does the author's depiction of a family beset by the kind of grief a kidnapping might bring. The small cast of characters is sharply divided: the family members are complicated and wonderfully drawn, but the neighbors, police, and other teens are mainly surface. Abby, who tells the story two years after the kidnapping, when Becky's body is found, is likable, and readers are easily drawn along to follow her progress and to find out what happened to her sister, a question that is answered without sensationalism in the end.-Rhona Campbell, Washington, DC Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
Abigail and her younger sister Becky seem to live in a '50s sitcom, until Becky disappears. Their typical sibling rivalry comes under painful scrutiny, as do all the adults in the house and even in the neighborhood, with the possible exception of Mrs. Ramirez, who becomes the designated supervisor as the girls' mother fails to cope. Somewhat incomprehensibly, Abigail becomes an outcast at school but gradually finds comfort with Tommy, Mrs. Ramirez's grandson, who must cope with his own family failures. Although the setting is evidently modern, no one has cell phones or computers, with the result that the narrative seems to be a memoir or historical fiction. Mrs. Ramirez's use of a shortcut English and other comments about her heritage seem stereotypical. However, there is a visceral feel to Abigail's observations and her need to find a solution to an unbearably awful event that only ends after two years of pain. Those with a fondness for problem novels will find the interminable details more satisfying than the banal resolution. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
1.10(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.30(d)
850L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

The September Sisters RB/SB

Chapter One

When I'm called out of my tenth-grade advanced English class at nine-thirty in the morning on a Thursday to come down to the office, I know immediately that something has happened. As I round the corner, I see my father standing there, and I'm suddenly afraid.

"What's the matter, Dad? Are you all right?" I whisper. There's a sinking feeling in my chest because I know he's not all right. He should be at work.

He shakes his head. And I'm not sure if I want to hear what he's about to say, but I know I need to hear it. "They've found her," he says.

His words are an ending, a relief and a heartbreak all at once, because I know that everything that happened over the last two years, everything that has led me right here, right to this moment, is finally over.

The night before Becky disappeared was amazingly normal; it could've been any night in my life, any night the summer before my thirteenth birthday. Becky and I fought, but this was nothing unusual.

It was a particularly humid night, even for July. There was a certain heaviness, an unbearable, budding sweat that refused to go away as we ate dinner in our bathing suits. The air in the house seemed to stand still, even as the paddle fans above us swung around and around.

We ate macaroni and cheese for dinner. It was my favorite meal and something my mother cooked for us often because it was easy and it was the one food Becky and I both could agree on. When we were eating, my mother disappeared into the bathroom. Becky and I chewed up the noodles and held them on our tongues, then stuck our tongues out to grosseach other out. "Ewww," Becky kept saying. "Abby, don't show me." But I laughed and did it anyway. I knew she wasn't really annoyed, only pretending, but I wanted to push her to the edge, to make her angry.

Becky and I were at each other's throats—six weeks out of school and somewhat bored. Our mother pretended we were friends and set us up with games and arts and crafts during the day, but we hated each other. Maybe hate is too strong a word; it was more like we were jealous and crazy for our mother's attention. I was two years and one day older than Becky, and I think that always drove her crazy. She didn't like being second, not in anything.

When my mother came back to the kitchen, her face was red and puffy, and we knew she'd been crying. She cried a lot then, though we didn't really know why. Ever since our grandmother had died the year before, my mother's sadness had become something we'd accepted, something we'd learned to live with, just like anything else, I guess. We usually tried to ignore it or make jokes. Becky chewed up more noodles, stuck out her tongue, and said, "Look, Mom."

"Oh, Becky, really. Behave yourself." And she went out on the back patio to have a cigarette. My mother didn't smoke inside the house. She said if she did it outside, it didn't count. And we believed her. We didn't see her cigarette as an indulgence, something sinful, but rather as an extension of her glamour, something a little dangerous that made her more than just our mother.

There was something about our mother that Becky and I idolized. She's beautiful, but I don't think that just because she's my mother. She's medium height, but she's very thin, and she has this shiny blond hair that she usually pulls back in a ponytail against her neck. She doesn't wear a lot of makeup, but she wears enough to highlight her features, her enormous green eyes, her wide, toothy smile. Her bottom front tooth is slightly crooked, but this only adds to her charm, makes her not perfect, and to me makes her seem only more beautiful.

Our father was working late, something he does often. When he was home, she didn't smoke at all, and we all ate dinner together. This usually happened one or two nights a week. Most nights were like that night.

Our father is a stern man, unyielding. I'm both in awe and afraid of him. He's very tall and burly with this thick brown mustache and bushy eyebrows. He's a strange match for my mother's beauty, but somehow they seemed to fit perfectly, the way he put his hand on her leg as we rode in the car, the way he put his arm around her as they sat on the couch; it was almost like he was always protecting her from something.

He works as a controller for Velcor, a company that makes dishes, china, and just your normal everyday stuff. That's why we always have very nice plates and little teacups and saucers and the like. That night we ate our macaroni and cheese out of these pink-flowered bowls. The bowls are white, and the pink flowers are stenciled around the edges in a little chain. It was Velcor's latest design, and Becky and I adored them. We loved pink; that was one thing we both could agree on.

After dinner I called my best friend, Jocelyn Redfern. We talked to each other at least once a day, and we usually saw each other on weekends. With Jocelyn, I was my grown-up self, the one who's interested in boys and clothes and makeup. It was an entirely different role from the one I played with Becky, chewing up noodles and displaying them as a gross-out technique.

The whole summer we'd been talking incessantly about James Harper, a boy we both had a crush on. Only we'd talk about him in secret code, so when Becky tried to listen in, she wouldn't understand what we were saying. We used names of food for people: Jam for James, Banana for Becky, Iced Tea for Jocelyn's mother, and so on.

The September Sisters RB/SB. Copyright © by Jillian Cantor. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Jillian Cantor is the author of two young adult novels, The September Sisters and The Life of Glass. She has an MFA from the University of Arizona and was a recipient of the national Jacob K. Javits Fellowship.

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September Sisters 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
book_lover123 More than 1 year ago
I would give it less stars then 1 if I could. Even thought kept my attention, I don't like books that are to romantic. If you're like reading books with sex and language in it, then it you might like this book. Nor did I like the ending. I personally didn't feel conferable with this book at all. I didn't get a positive vibe from this book. I hope this review helps.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Danielle Mullis More than 1 year ago
This is possibly one of the best books I've ever read! It is definitely a page turner!
PatriciaJL More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book mainly because the author was coming to our library to host a little seminar on how to become a writer, and I obviously wanted to be able to connect with her. I unfortunately was not thoroughly surprised by this book. At first I was able to connect to the book as I too have a sister with same name and growing up we did more than our fair share of sisterly bickering and fighting. While I loved the character development of the main character, Abigail, and I felt for her and her family, there was something about this book that just didn't get me hooked on it, and I unfortunately still can not put my finger on it. This is not to say that it did not have its good qualities. As I said, the character development was well done. Being told through Abigail, you are able to get inside of her head and really understand why she feels and thinks the way she does. You cannot help but feel for her as her mother clearly has checked out once Becky's disappeared. I was frustrated at Abigail's father and how overbearing he was towards her, but clearly understandably so. Jillian Cantor's close attention to detail in describing Abigail's "first love" was real in the sense that I can remember feeling that way at the same age as Abigail. The one thing I know I did not like about this book was the fact that not much time was spent on the ending (I won't go into any detail as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who wants to read it). Overall, the book was decent and even though it is not one of my favorites, I do not regret reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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bookLOOOver More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing in every way possible. It will make u cry, and realize whats deep inside of you. It's romantic, memorable, unforgettable, and realatable.
JordanJT More than 1 year ago
My motivation to read the book was based on the fact that I have a sister and we share a September birthday. I did find similarities between the story and my own life which may have given me more of an incentive to complete the book than say someone else. The book was easy to read and follow but it just didn't grap your attention and captivate you. If a friend gave you the book to read, I would recommend reading it but I would not recommend that you go out and buy the book.
TreesinBrooklyn More than 1 year ago
I read this book recently and I loved it! I recommend it to any teen or preteen. I strongly recommend it to people who think they have read all the good books and there is nothing left.
mrdarcy3 More than 1 year ago
Abigail and Becky are your average sisters - fighting all the time about the little things in life. One morning when it's discovered that Becky's missing; Abby doesn't realize just how much her life has changed - without her sister, her mom falls apart, the neighbors start whispering about their family, and Abby's best friend drops her. She has no friends at school and no one to confide in. Abby desperately wishes for comfort, but her father is trying to track down clues to his daughter's disappearance while her mother shuts down and hides in her room. Abby doesn't know how to help her family get over this trauma. She tries asking questions and pretending she's grown-up enough to hear the truths, but really, she just needs someone to pay attention to her. When her new baby-sitter's grandson moves in, they start to connect. He's getting over his own family drama. With him, Abby can save stories about Becky without judgment. She also confides in Tommy about her family now vs her family before. Can she make sense of life without her sister? Caution: Read this one with tissues. As a sister, this book was realistically painful. My sister and I fought constantly for several years before we came BFFs again. I can understand the torment of Abby wondering where her sister is and if she's coming home. Not knowing what's happening is the scariest part of the journey. Time passes, but it doesn't feel real with the other part of you missing. This book is a a very powerful and emotional read. Fans of Lurlene McDaniel and teens looking for a tear-jerker will love this book.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Abigail and Becky are exactly two years and a day apart, and are often referred as the September Sisters by their mother. However, despite their close proximity of age, they constantly squabble with one another and compete for their parents' attention.

But after the sudden disappearance of Becky, Abby's whole life changes. Her mom grows more and more distant and her dad becomes overbearing and obsessed with the investigation. Abby is officially no longer an ignorant child, as she desperately tries to keep her family together.

Abby has no one to confide in until Tommy moves in next door. She soon finds herself expressing all of her emotions, pain, guilt, and resentment towards Becky and her disappearance to him. Along the way, Abigail also falls in love with him, even when everything in her world is less than perfect.

THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS, Jillian Cantor's debut novel, was truly unforgettable, with the perfect mixture of realism, great character development, and plot. Ms. Cantor did a clever job at crafting the opening scene, because I was hooked from the very first page.

The main character, Abby, was really well-written. All of her emotions were portrayed effectively and realistically, making it easy to sympathize with her. But, most importantly, she was a strong heroine, even given her tragic situation. One of the things that I thought was especially memorable were the contrasting emotions Abby endured throughout the book. At one point she was frustrated and even jealous of how much attention her sister received, even after she disappeared.

Her relationship with Tommy was a perfect depiction of first love and its exploring nature. It was interesting to see how their relationship developed, because when they initially met they were hesitant to become friends since they were forced to talk during lunch.

This one is definitely recommended and worth adding to your wish list.