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The Beloved Brother Award Goes to Johnny Olivera

For the first I Heart Characters prompt of 2019, I am going to write about a beloved sibling character. There are some truly great siblings in YA books, but one is a particularly great big brother. The fictional sibling I think deserves an award is Johnny Olivera from Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard.

Girl Mans Up focuses on Pen Olivera. As she struggles with her Portuguese parents’ expectations and her supposed friends’ behavior, she has a brother who has her back. Johnny is an amazing older brother who helps his sister throughout the book. He is a great brother, and I will explain why.

There will be spoilers for Girl Mans Up in this post, so read at your own risk.

(I don’t have a picture of Johnny, so please enjoy the cover of the novel.)

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard on a winter pattern

He accepts Pen for who she is.

Unlike the rest of their family, Johnny understands, supports and advocates for Pen. He accepts her as she is, gender expression and sexuality included. He also helps Pen clean up her choppy haircut, which she had done after getting attacked by her friend.

He defends her.

He stands up to their parents and the portion of society that decides to be hateful. There is a scene where he scares off some threatening jerks after they harass Pen. He also does his best to run interference when their parents when they try to shove Pen into a girly-girl box.

He is also the one who has the best chance of getting through to their parents when they and Pen hit a culture clash. He speaks Portuguese better than she does, and he can explain some things better. There are moments where he gets them off her back.

He and his sister have a secret code.

I like that, when they lived in the same house, they shared a code so that Pen could discretely call for help. Since he lived in the basement, all Pen had to do was stomp a certain number of times as the signal for needing help with the parents.

He stands up to them. He knows that she will never fit whatever traditional roles their parents believe she should fit, and he does what he can to make her life easier.

He teaches Pen skills.

When she wants to learn how to do some yard or home maintenance, he teaches her. He is willing to teach her skills that he knows when she wants to learn.

He gives good emotional support.

There are a few times where he provides real emotional support. The time he does a very good job is when Pen goes to support her friend at the abortion clinic. Pen gets conflicting feelings about everything surrounding that abortion, and Johnny shows up when she calls and talks her thoughts. He also drives her and her friend home.

He made sure Pen would have a place to sleep at his home.

Pen had sided with her parents when she was mad at Johnny when they kicked him out, and he was an understanding person by realizing she didn’t really hate him. He figured that there would be a day when Pen couldn’t live at home anymore, and he prepared his home so that she could have a room in it.

When she does have to move out of their parents’ house, she moves in with him and starts contributing to their bills. He makes it possible for her to survive, get out of a toxic environment, and be who she is.


Who is the best sibling character you’ve encountered?

The I Heart Characters! Meme is hosted by Dani @ Perspective of a Writer. This was started for book bloggers to share their love of characters. If you would like to know the upcoming prompts, follow the link to her blog.


5 thoughts on “The Beloved Brother Award Goes to Johnny Olivera

  1. I remember your review of this book Carrie but actually this totally sells me on it again… I am weak against a wonderful sibling!! I especially love older siblings who help younger siblings with parents who can’t seem to accept or understand them. It’s a rough situation and them having a sibling who supports them… priceless! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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