No and Me  

By Delphine de Vigan
Published by Bloomsbury

As I read this book, I became increasingly exasperated by the do-gooder  narrator, the self-confessed ‘intellectually precocious’ thirteen-year-old Lou Bertignac who has a ‘disturbing maturity’. However, days after finishing it, I was still haunted by its distressing subject matter and heartbreaking reality.

Delphine de Vigan is a best-selling French author and this is her first novel for young adults. Unfortunately, there are too many cultural references with which the average young British reader will be unable to identify: salt cod puree being one of the many food references, for example! The translation itself leaves a lot to be desired in places. I found the overuse of the word ‘stuff’ very off-putting, which did not seem to fit with Lou’s personality, as I did also the continual change of tenses, all features I take great pains on a daily basis to ask my students to avoid! These may work in the original French but I did not feel they were warranted in the translated text.

Despite these niggling points, the novel is a fast-moving account of Lou’s encounter with a homeless girl with whom she forms a friendship for a school enquiry. She maintains the friendship after the school project has finished. Overall, the story is a delicate portrayal of the difficulties of family life, teenage relationships and the topic of homelessness. It is due to be made into a film for release this autumn.

As I said, it is not a pleasant read but one which will have a lasting effect on its readers of all ages and for this reason should be attempted.

Review by
Wendy Marshall