The Isabel Fish by Julie Orringer from
How to Breathe Underwater (2003)
I picked up this book after reading Nick Hornby's recommendation in The Polysyllabic Spree. I was awestruck by this story. The Isabel Fish is about a girl named Maddy, who is the sole survivor of a car accident that claimed the life of her brother's girlfriend, Isabel. Maddy deals with her older brother Sage and his cruelty as everyday life.
"Crime and punishment. That is the pattern between my brother Sage and me. A quiet private criminal justice system is what we've created, with Sage as judge, jailer, and executioner. Our system has no checks and balances, and it allows multiple punishments for the same crime. If, in a real court, I'd been proven guilty of killing Isabel, I would have gotten my punishment and been left to live with it. In the world of Sage and me, however, I must pay and pay-even though Sage is guilty in some ways himself."
A great story that is simple and very real, as if Orringer was just a teenager not very long ago.