Saturday, 2 April 2011
Review: No and Me by Delphine De Vigan
Lou Bertignac has an IQ of 160 and a good friend called Lucas who gets her through the school day. At home her father cries in secret in the bathroom and her mother hasn't been out of the house properly for years. But Lou is about to change her life - and that of her parents - for good, all because of a school project she decides to do about the homeless. Through the project Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets. As their friendship grows, Lou cannot bear that No is still on the streets when she goes back home - even if it is to a home that is saddened and desolate. So she asks her parents if No can come to live with them. To her astonishment, her parents - eventually - agree. No's presence forces Lou and her parents to finally face the sadness that has enveloped them. But No has disruptive as well as positive effects. Can this shaky, newfound family continue to live together? A tense, brilliant novel tackling the true meanings of home and homelessness.
One of the reviews on the back of this book describes it as being "funny and tender" (Yorkshire Evening Post). While I agree wholeheartedly with the "tender" description, I did not find it funny as a whole. There were some amusing moments, but there was always a slightly sinister feel in the background (perhaps "sinister" is too strong a word) and overall I found this to be a sad tale of homelessness, dysfunctional families and painful adolescence. This doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book - it is a touching story and I raced through it, hoping for a happy ending ...
Delphine De Vigan draws wonderful characters with her words. I felt great sympathy for homeless No and desperately wanted things to turn out well for, though perhaps it says more about me than No that I was waiting for her to "slip up". Lou, the genius who doesn't fit in, is infinitely likeable even through her mistakes.
Oddly, this book reminded me of Eve Green by Susan Fletcher in the way it was written, although Eve Green is not one of my favourite books by a long shot! No and Me is a lyrical and thought provoking novel and one I would highly recommend. The fact that it is set in Paris is a happy bonus!
My Rating: 4/5