16 March 2010

Book of the Week (52): "No and Me" by Delphine de Vigan

Lou Bertignac, a thirteen-year-old girl with an IQ of 160, has been moved up a couple of years at school. She is socially awkward and shy, with few friends. The last thing she wants to do is a class presentation. Findng herself put on the spot to identify her topic she blurts out the first thing that comes to mind - the homeless. She will interview the homeless girl, 'No', whom she met at the station. There begins a new friendship and a strong bond between two young girls struggling through life in very different circumstances. No without home or family, Lou with a family that seems to have stopped living. Lou finds herself opening up, not only to No but also to Luke, the older boy in class who seems to like her. Luke quickly becomes her accomplice as she tries to help No.

It's a touching and engaging story led by its characters. Lou's narrative walks a delicate balance between being intelligent and beautifully innocent and childlike. I warmed to her instantly, feeling her desire to understand, following her life through thought tangents and experiments, and moments of lostness as she tries to navigate her life in a painful world.

No and Me is well written, effortless to read and enjoy while touching on heartbreaking issues of loss, illness, family and social dysfunction. Most of all this is a story of friendship, loyalty, the way people relate to each other and how personal determination and desire to help can make a difference - though not always in the way you expect.

Recommended by Tessa Brechin

  • Try Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff, which explores another supportive yet complex friendship growing from one girl's attempt to help another with her difficult life situation - in this case being a teenage mum of two.
  • Or for another unique character-led story, try The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

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