[Review] Brothers, by Ted van Lieshout

[Review] Brothers, by Ted van LieshoutBrothers: Life, Death, Truth by Ted van Lieshout
Published by HarperCollins on 1999 (first published in Dutch in 1996)
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult
Pages: 155
The verdict: four-half-stars
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Half a year after Luke's brother Marius passed away, their mother intends to burn all Marius' possessions on his first birthday after his death as a grand goodbye. In an attempt to save Marius' diary, Luke starts writing in it to make it as much his own as it was his brother's. At first Luke doesn't read Marius' entries but just writes on the empty pages, but eventually he gives in and reads his brother's words.

It’s been a while since I reviewed an LGBT YA book (even though I read plenty). But then I picked up this book and I think it deserves a little extra attention, because it’s amazing and also because it’s a book from the Netherlands. I read it in Dutch, so that’s what most of my review will be based on, but the book has in fact been translated to a number of other languages including (but not limited to) English, German, Italian and even Korean. The book received a Dutch award and even a German youth literature award. And apparently the book is also a semi-popular read for the high school reading list in the Netherlands, which is pretty awesome.


I finished this book in no time, partly because it’s short but also for a large part because I just couldn’t put it down.

We get the story from Luke’s point of view in the form of diary entries. In an attempt to save Marius’ diary, Luke starts writing in it. At first he only writes in the diary without peaking at his brother’s entries. He writes about himself and his family. He wonders, among other things, if he is still a brother when his only brother is death. When his mother threatens to tear out Luke’s pages and burn the diary after all, Luke is forced to start using Marius’ pages as well and to write between his lines. This is how the dialogue with (or rather monologue to) his brother begins.

Not only do we find out more about what happened to his brother, but the diary also helps Luke come to terms with his sexuality. The diary format is incredibly intimate and it works perfectly for this story. It’s incredibly realistic. In just 150 pages Van Lieshout manages to make us care about his characters. Luke’s words are down to earth, often witty, sometimes heartbreaking. The book touches sensitive topics, and emotionally it was a bit of a roller-coaster. At the same time it was written in an almost light-hearted way and the book did not make me cry (kudos to that).
(The light-heartedness of the novel actually makes me question the English title – I am not sure if that subtitle Life, Death, Truth does this book any justice. It sounds too heavy.)

For me, this book was nearly perfect. There were a few pages approximately three quarters into the book that were a bit meh, but on the other hand: still infinitely better than the average book. Overall, this book is amazing and I hope more people pick it up. This book deserves it.

Also, a small warning: there is one(1) sex scene and it’s described in detail. It doesn’t even take up a page and honestly it’s still pretty mild. I have actually seen people on Goodreads give this book negative reviews because of this ‘unexpected’ ‘graphic’ scene and there’s only one way for me to reply to such criticism: bullshit.

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