Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel.
Scholastic Press: NY, 2010.

Ben Tomlin's family moves from Toronto to Victoria, because they have one of the few universities that would welcome the experiment Ben's parents intend to pursue. On his 13th birthday, his mom brings home his new brother - Zan, a baby chimpanzee. The goal is to attempt to raise the chimpanzee as a human. His father's focus will be solely on human language and whether Zan will be able to use words in a cognitive and creative fashion. His mother plans to observe how closely a chimpanzee can learn and think as a human. Will the nurturing make all the difference, or will there still be a key part of Zan that will always be chimpanzee? The conflicting experiments are interesting in that they do interfere with each other. It turns out the nurturing is very important, and Ben's mother's experiment is highly disrupted by changes in that care. When push comes to shove, with a new grant needed and withheld, evidence is ignored, the project terminated, and Zan is treated unfairly.

As you can imagine, Ben did not originally want a chimpanzee brother. But he does become part of the family. Not because of the household revolving around Zan, which it does, but because Zan interacts with him as a brother would. The language experiment works, and Ben is one of just a few people to fully watch it happen. In the process, he is a key part of his mother's research, which also is revealing of the nature vs nurture argument relating to human development.

Ben's family dynamic is on display as much as Zan's growth. Zan's needs run counter to what Mr. Tomlin deems necessary for the experiment, which pits Ben against his father in trying to ensure what Zan needs. At the crux of the matter is the fact that the family situation is a lie. The father never sees the chimpanzee as a son, in fact is not even closely involved in Zan's world. Arbitrary judgements are made without regard to evidence to the contrary, and it is excruciating to watch while Zan's world falls apart. Ben and his mother are forced to observe helplessly.

Two other books, though very different, to read and compare are NEXT by Michael Crichton and Eva by Peter Dickinson.

related-language recognition and usage, language skills, experiments with animals, nature vs nurture, human and animal behavior and development, family dynamic, critical choices, anthropology
RL=7th and up

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