Home > Senior Fiction, Young Adult > Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel. Pub. Scholastic, 2010.

A novel that is different. It’s about two things really. The first is about medical science and the use of animals in experiments.

If you bring up a baby chimpanzee as a human baby can you teach it language so that it can communicate with humans? What are the ethics of doing this? and what happens if things go wrong? What defines being human and differentiates humans from animals?

The second story in this novel is the coming of age of 13 year old Ben who has his first relationship with a girl called Jennifer and approaches the relationship in the same scientific way that his parents are approaching the experiment of teaching Zan the chimpanzee how to communicate. Boy does it get complicated.

Ben is encouraged to be part of the experiment by getting close to Zan and to even treat him as a little brother. This he does and develops a very close relationship with Zan.

But then after a year things start to go wrong for both Ben and Zan. I can’t tell you any more. It is very interesting and at times heart rending stuff which will provoke much discussion and even opposing points of view. I will leave it up to you.

The ending will have you reeling from one emotion to another.

Secondary and senior secondary in appeal but the relationship between Ben and Jennifer will have interest to younger readers.

Kenneth Oppel is the author of that outstanding series on bats called Silverwing Trilogy. Read them.

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