Jennifer (JC-S)'s Reviews > No and Me

No and Me by Delphine de Vigan
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Sep 05, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: librarybooks
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‘There’s this invisible city within the city.’

Lou Bertignac is a very clever teenager. Lou has an IQ of 160, and is two years ahead of her age group at school in Paris. It’s not easy being thirteen anyway, but when your peer group is two years older and things are not great at home, life is even more challenging. Lou’s parents are distracted: her mother has been severely depressed since the death of Lou’s baby sister Chloe, and her father is preoccupied and worried. Lou’s best friend at school is Lucas, a teenager who is older that the rest of the class, a rebel who is repeating the year and is, like Lou, an outsider. Lou spends her spare time developing theories about how the world works and conducting scientific tests: this keeps her busy and takes her mind off the inexorable sadness in her home.

‘That’s the problem – our lives have stopped and the world keeps going round.’

Lou has to give a presentation to her class and, under pressure to nominate a topic, decides to do a project on the homeless. She hopes to be able to interview a homeless girl that she has seen at the railway station. And so we meet Nolween (No) an eighteen year old who has been homeless for some time. No is pretty, despite being dirty and missing a tooth, and is Lou’s first real social contact outside of home and school. At the end of Lou’s project, she is desperate not to lose contact with No. She asks her parents if No can move into their apartment, at least for a while. Lou’s parents agree, and No’s moving in becomes a very positive step for the Bertignac family, especially for Lou’s mother. At first, it seems to be a good thing for No as well, but No’s life cannot be transformed so easily.
While Lucas joins forces with Lou to try to rescue No, he is experienced enough to know that success is not guaranteed. Lucas knows that homelessness is not just about the absence of a roof. Can No be saved from herself?

I enjoyed this novel, especially the characters of Lou and Lucas. We only see Lou’s perspective of events which means that we (like Lou) are not able to see inside No’s head. Lou is idealistic and unworldly; she wants things to work out. Perhaps, the word ‘Utopian’, applied to Lou by her teacher Mr Marin is appropriate at this stage of her life. At thirteen, precocious or not, it isn’t possible to understand the world completely or to control the way in which events unfold.

‘And our silence is filled with all the world’s impotence. Our silence is like the return to the origin of things, their true state.’

This novel is for young (and not so young) adults. It’s well worth reading. This is French author Delphine de Vigan’s fourth novel.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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