Tina Jordan
September 28, 2011 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Sibling Effect

Current Status
In Season
Jeffrey Kluger

We gave it an A-

What does it say about me that I used to torture my little brother by dangling his teddy bear out the car window? He would sit in mute terror, afraid that if he yelled, I would let go. Well, according to The Sibling Effect, I wasn’t a budding sociopath. No, I was just instinctively reacting to my brother’s cushy perch as the baby and asserting my role as the oldest child.

This kind of popular nonfiction often turns into Science Lite. Like Malcolm Gladwell, however, Jeffrey Kluger — an editor at Time (a sister publication to EW) — can fashion something addictively readable out of even the densest list of statistics without dumbing it down. His fluid style is punctuated with lovely turns of phrase: the ”oddly bacterial nature of bad behavior” in children; the ”kabuki dance of the custody battle” when marriages end.

But what drives the book’s narrative is Kluger’s story. He was one of four boys — ”a loud, messy, brawling, loyal, loving, lasting unit” — who coped with their parents’ divorce, their mother’s addiction, and their father’s abandonment. Just as his gift for parsing journal articles and master’s theses gives the book its intellectual heft, his own experiences give the book its heart. A-

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