Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel
For thirteen years, Ben Tomlin was an only child. But all that changes when his mother brings home Zan ? an eight-day-old chimpanzee. Ben’s father, a renowned behavioral scientist, has uprooted the family to pursue his latest research project: a high-profile experiment to determine whether chimpanzees can acquire advanced language skills. Ben’s parents tell him to treat Zan like a little brother. Ben reluctantly agrees. At least now he’s not the only one his father’s going to scrutinize. It isn’t long before Ben is Zan’s favorite, and Ben starts to see Zan as more than just an experiment. His father disagrees. Soon Ben is forced to make a critical choice between what he is told to believe and what he knows to be true ? between obeying his father or protecting his brother from an unimaginable fate.
Ben and Zan’s story doesn’t have explosions or breathless romances. It’s simpler, but also much more complicated. Half Brother makes you think. Zan isn’t human, but does that mean he’s not a person? Can a chimp really be part of a human family? Oppel raises these questions masterfully and subtly. He does an amazing job growing the relationship between Ben and Zan, and it’s not hard to believe Zan is really his brother.
The one part of the book I didn’t like was how possessive Ben was of the girl he liked, Jennifer. This, however, is nothing against the author and is more of a personal argument with Ben. I can appreciate a character with flaws, and in all I loved Oppel’s book. I was rooting for Zan the whole way.
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