Synopsis from Goodreads.
Parisian teenager Lou has an IQ of 160, OCD tendencies, and a mother who has suffered from depression for years. But Lou is about to change her life—and that of her parents—all because of a school project about homeless teens. While doing research, Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets. As their friendship grows, Lou bravely asks her parents if No can live with them, and is astonished when they agree. No’s presence forces Lou’s family to come to terms with a secret tragedy. But can this shaky, newfound family continue to live together when No’s own past comes back to haunt her?
Oh this book was wonderful.
I’d never actually heard of this book before I read Rey’s gorgeous review of it. I’ve always been curious about YA books from other countries (meaning not The Big Three: USA, Australia and the UK) because they must be out there. I know they’re out there but it’s difficult to find out about them because they never get the time of day which is such a shame because I know we’re missing out on all these beautiful YA books that are being lost in translation.
Anyway… this book.
Lou is such a wonderful narrator and has a fantastic way of seeing the world for a girl so young. There was a lovely naiveté about Lou and how she saw both the world in which she was growing up and No’s situation. Normally in books, I get frustrated with narrators when they’re naïve because I just want to get them to open their eyes. But with Lou it provided the perfect vessel to allow Ms de Vigan to explore what it’s like to balance on that cusp of “young adulthood” in this modern world. I think thirteen is such an interesting age in your life because you’re not really anything.
There’s no way you’re a child anymore but you’re only just a teenager, and everything is changing. This is the time where your expectations and reality don’t always match up and it’s strange and it’s upsetting, but there’s nothing you can do about it.
And Ms de Vigan perfectly portrays this disillusionment that you get when you’re stumbling through this age. When you’re expected to go to parties at the weekend instead of timing how long it takes for wet footprints to disappear of the kitchen floor. When you realise it’s not “cool” to do well at school. When you realise that not everyone in the world has a roof over their head and a warm meal every day like you do. I really enjoyed watching the world change through Lou’s eyes. It was subtle, stripped back and often incredibly moving.
I’ve always said that, on the whole, YA books aimed at a younger audience are the ones that deal with darker subjects so much better than some aimed at older readers. (The 10pm Question and A Monster Calls come immediately to mind). I don’t know what it is, but I love it so much which is why I will never not read a book just because it’s on the younger side of the YA spectrum.
Not only does Ms de Vigan portray homelessness in a way that’s heart breaking but realistic, but also the subject of loss and family problems. I don’t really want to go too much into this aspect because I think it would be better to experience it first hand from reading it, but the passages describing Lou’s mother, father and their past combined with No’s history were so well-written. Even poor Lucas’ situation made me sad.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it was so different to anything I’ve read this year. It’s powerful in its subtlety and shows that you don’t need to clobber your readers over the head with emotion and angst to create a thought-provoking and moving book. The characters are fantastic (I had a little soft spot for Lucas. I can’t help but think a lot of authors need to take note of him because that’s how you write a lovely “bad” boy) and the tumultuous friendship between No and Lou was perfectly crafted.
Also? The ending was perfect for this story. I actually finished this book on Sunday morning and I mean morning. I woke up at half five and there was no way I was going back to sleep so I finished it and those last couple of chapters made my heart ache so much that even in my absolute knackerdness (Yes, I know that’s not a word), sleep was the last thing on my mind.
Sometimes I wish for happy endings, even though I know that I would be annoyed if I got it. I think this is one of those books. I’m glad, so glad that Ms de Vigan didn’t grant me that wish with No and Me.