The Analyses of the Book “Half-brother” by Kenneth Oppel
Ben Tomlin, an average thirteen-year-old boy, isn’t so sure about his father’s newestexperiment. Dr. Tomlin, Ben’s father, a well-known scientist in the field of behavioural science, has abruptly moved his family to a new university in a new city to pursue a new scientific study, which means lots of changes for our average thirteen year old boy. Dealing with transferring into a new school and trying to make new friends is no easy task, but unfortunately for Ben, and additional weight is thrown unto him as he’s forced to deal with the newest addition to the family, a baby chimpanzee.
In this behavioural study, Dr. Tomlin is trying to discover whether or not chimpanzees can learn sign language and hold conversations with humans, their closest relatives, and the best way for the baby chimp to learn to speak like a human, is to be raised like one. A story of science, of animal rights, of morales, and of a coming of age story, Half Brother is a surprising mix of all these themes and will surely hook young audiences into this telltale drama.
In the book Half-Brother, our main character, Ben Tomlin, is the 13-year-old son of Dr. Tomlin, who is a behavioural scientist conducting a supposedly revolutionary experiment to see if chimpanzees can converse with humans through the use of sign language. The subject of experimentation, who goes by the name of Zan, was ripped from the arms of his mother and was chosen by the Tomlin’s to be raised and taught like a human. Of course nothing started off smooth and dandy. Ben’s initial thoughts towards ben was of jealousy due to chimp taking the attention of his parents. As time passes however, he begins to quickly get close to him, even giving him his name, Zan, which is the half of “Tarzan”. The experiment proves successful in the beginning, and Ben grows to love Zan and even tries to love him as a brother.
The two main character present in this story would be Ben and Zan. Ben is a thirteen year old boy whose perspective or views is represented throughout the book, Half Brother. Although he is born between two people in the field of phd, he is a surprisingly slow learner whose grades clearly aren’t the highest. Due to this, his relationship with his father is quite complicated to say the least. This doesn’t mean he isn’t willing to have compassion such as in the case with Zan. For example, He is willing to risk anything for Zan even it means jeopardizing the image of his father and whatnot. Zan is the subject who is experimented on throughout the story. Although Ben’s father, Dr. Tomlin, was the one who raised the idea of the experiment, the people who mainly teach Zan the American Sign language is Ben and his mother.
During his time at the Tomlin’s his relationship with Ben developed quickly and strong, which made it hard for him to separate from Ben. The moment in which Zan had to leave comes far sooner than Ben would have thought, and quite honestly far sooner than any reader would have imagined as well. Zan is suddenly out of the Tomlin home and into a research facility in Nevada when the funding for the experiment dried up. This was the area in which the story just started going downhill for me. Not because it was sad, but because I felt like the exclusion of Zan was far too rough and ragged. Almost like the author had to cut him off because he couldn’t finish the book in time.
I also wished that the author, Kenneth Oppel, made Ben’s voice a bit more distinctive and less plain. I find that most teen novels, such as Half Brother, the main character’s language is purposely plain, and due to this it’s hard to think Ben as an individual in a story. Rather it feels like a person is speaking in his stead. I personally think that people at his age speak sharper than this and I would greatly appreciate a more quirkier voice. Through reading this book, I thought that Ben could have been anyone and isn’t a character that could have been different from the rest.
In conclusion, I thought that this book was a fairly fun read but was nothing more nothing less, and was definitely not suited for older audiences above 14 or 15. It didn’t make me want to read a sequel or re-read it and was instead a good way to pass time. Personally I prefer books that are longer, have harder vocabulary, and a little thought provoking and sadly half-brother didn’t really fit into these categories. This book is geared towards younger audiences and I would recommend this to students who are in the beginning-middle phase of their reading career.
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