Review: The Half Sister by Sandie Jones

Summary: Kate and Lauren meet for Sunday lunch every week without fail, especially after the loss of their father–but a knock at the door is about to change everything. A young woman by the name of Jess holds a note with the results of a DNA test, claiming to be their half sister. As the fallout starts, it’s clear that they are all hiding secrets, and perhaps this family isn’t as perfect as it appears.
Genre: thriller, mystery
Rating: 2/5 stars

I don’t know that it’s possible to sugarcoat this review in any way, so I’m just going to say it: The Half Sister is a mess, to put it bluntly. It’s filled with plot holes, there are a million subplots and false red herrings to throw the reader off with a big twist at the end that is honestly not that shocking. The characters are insufferable (WHO am I supposed to be rooting for here?), and not only did I not care what happened to them, but there was also zero resolution for any of them.

There’s a lot to unpack here, and almost all of it could have been left out. The premise is simple: a mysterious woman shows up and stirs up the lives of family. This has been done ad nauseum with thrillers, so to make it more enticing, the author added tons of unnecessary subplots to try to keep the reader engaged (it didn’t work) and throw the reader off to make the ending shocking (it was predictable). Here’s just a few of the subplots in this story:

There are SPOILERS obviously, but I don’t care because this book isn’t good.

  • A teenage pregnancy ended in an abortion which caused a character to break up with her boyfriend
  • Said character reuniting with said ex and having an affair
  • Another character struggling with fertility issues
  • One character being in an abusive relationship
  • A once-mentioned fling between two obsolete characters that is set up to make the reader believe one character is having an affair with the main character’s husband (they aren’t)

I understand this is a domestic thriller and that means opening a can of worms on a family that has been keeping secrets, but it became so over the top and ridiculous that I gave up and couldn’t take it seriously. Do we even know if the DNA results were accurate (no because they never once thought to get a second test!)? Does it matter (yes because it’s the driving plot of the book!) when there are a dozen other loose ends to tie up? Do we get all the answers we need (no!), but most importantly, do we even care if we get them all (definitely not). There’s so much going on in this book that it left me exhausted. This wasn’t a fun, crazy rollercoaster of a story, it was just a giant disaster.

Although this book is completely littered with plot holes, the biggest is the one where a woman uses DNA results to claim she’s someone’s half-sister (and yes, that’s the…entire plot of the book). The book’s premise is that Lauren uploads her DNA to website, as does Jess, and they get matched as half-siblings. But because their father didn’t also take a DNA test, there’s no way to truly link the two. If two people think they have the same father but know they have different mothers, they won’t necessarily have the exact same paternal DNA. You get a random 50% of your dad’s DNA, as would any of his children.

DNA testing shows that half-siblings have an expected 25% match, which is the same amount that you have with your grandparents. It’s just as likely that someone is your half-sibling as they are your cousin. So their results would show potential relationships, but there’s no way Jess would just show up at their front door and outright be able to say she was their half-sibling. There is a literal science to this, but it’s like none of it was taken into consideration when writing the book? Somehow this giant inaccuracy was skipped by the author and editor? Someone legitimately thought this was a good idea for a story and no one would know basic biology and be able to tell that something was amiss. That’s lazy writing at its finest.

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