Maja (The Nocturnal Library)'s Reviews > No and Me

No and Me by Delphine de Vigan
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really liked it
bookshelves: 2012-favorites, contemporary-fiction, favorites, young-adult, reviewed-in-2012
Recommended to Maja (The Nocturnal Library) by: Catie

This summer, I met a young girl from Croatia’s most war-affected city. She came here, on the other side of the country, to live in a trailer and work in a supermarket for very little money. It was just a lousy summer job, but to her, it was more than good enough. When at home, she lives with her father, barely scraping by, both of them unemployed throughout the year because there are no jobs where she comes from. She told me about growing up hungry and going to school with her stomach completely empty. She told me how her mother refused meals to leave more for her, because she was still growing and she needed energy for her schoolwork. She told me how her parents took turns eating because there wasn’t enough for both. And she said it all with a big smile on her face, the smile of a person who refuses to be defeated.

I kept a brave face, but then I drove home and I cried for hours. I hugged my sleeping child and I swore that she’ll never experience anything similar. (I bet the girl’s parents made the same promise at some point, though, all parents do – and it scares me to death). But when I started thinking about things that could have been done to feed this girl when she needed it the most, things that SHOULD have been done, I felt deeply ashamed, even though back then, I was no more than a teen myself.

There’s really no point to this story, except that I felt it needed to be told. No and Me isn’t one of those books that try to convince you you’re equipped to save the world – you really aren’t, and neither am I. We do the best we can, most of us, and we live knowing it’s not nearly enough. And it’s because of that knowledge that we turn our heads the other way and try to protect ourselves from things we cannot change.

This is exactly why I don’t like reading contemporary YA. Things like bullying, abuse, even smaller family issues, make me feel hurt and powerless, and it’s something I tend to avoid at all costs. But No and Me is not one of those books. There’s something so very gentle about it because it doesn’t try to shock or hurt, nor does it try to change the reader in any way. It just is – it is a story, simple and beautiful, easy to read and even easier to accept, even while it’s breaking your heart.

In No and Me, a thirteen-year-old child genius Lou Bertignac interviews an eighteen-year-old homeless girl for a school project and subsequently decides to save her. She brings her into her home to live with her damaged family and treats her like a sister she’d lost when she was just a child. Lou Bertignac is an extraordinary character: understanding how her mind works (she has an IQ of 160) and how it reflects on her emotions was a challenge and a true delight. And of course she and I have a huge thing in common:

People who think that grammar is just a collection of rules and restrictions are wrong. If you get to like it, grammar reveals the hidden meaning of history, hides disorder and abandonment, links things and brings opposites together. Grammar is a wonderful way of organizing the world how you’d like it to be.

*sigh* I wholeheartedly agree.

This is the longest non-review I’ve written in my life, so I need to offer you an alternative. My friend Catie over at The Readventurer reads all these books I’m too much of a coward to pick up, and then she writes amazing reviews that are equal parts rational and emotional. She is my favorite reviewer in the world (and I’m not just saying that), and she’s the one who convinced me to read this book, so please check out her review if you can.

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Reading Progress

October 22, 2012 – Shelved
October 26, 2012 – Started Reading
October 27, 2012 –
October 28, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-12 of 12 (12 new)

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Catie Looking forward to your updates! And I hope you're feeling better! :-\

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Not really, but thank you! I think I'm going through an existential crisis of some sort. :) I'm loving the book, though. Perhaps No will help me put things into perspective.

Catie Well, I kinda think this book might be the perfect companion for an existential crisis. :) After this you might need a fun read though. Hugs to you Maja!

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Aww, hugs are always welcome. In large quantities. And I just finished The Iron Duke and the companion novella, so I've had enough brain candy for a while. We'll see how it goes after this. So far, I'm enjoying the Frenchness of it all. :)

Catie Haha, and don't worry - I'll still hug you when you're sick. I'm not a crazy germophobe. ;) You'll probably spritz me with bleach as I'm backing away, but it'll be worth it.

I loved the "Frenchness" of this book too - even though I pretty much have no idea how to describe what that is. I really enjoyed how non-American it was.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Yes! It's difficult to explain, the translation is very good. With The Storyteller, some of the German sentence structure has been kept and it isn't very smooth, but that's not the case here. Aside from the names, there's nothing that screams non-American, and yet it's so easy to recognize.

Reynje Beautiful review, Maja. I thought this book was gorgeous too - and it didn't try to be shocking or heavily message driven. Hope you're feeling better soon!

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Thank you! As Catie said, I think my favorite part was that it was so very European. I can't pinpoint exactly why it felt so different, but it did.

And thanks! Every existential crisis comes to an end, at least that's what I keep telling myself. I should stop rereading Camus in my spare time, that's what I should do. :)

Reynje Probably a good idea :)

It did have a very European feel, I loved that. There's definitely a different style. I really like how US/UK/European/Aus writing all feels a little different.

Nomes i am so glad you liked this one, maja. i fell in love with it (last year? everything's blurring together). this was just so unique

message 11: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa I don't think that your intentions with this review was for me to get all teary-eyed. :(

Beautiful review, Maja!

message 12: by Arion (new) - added it

Arion Mislim da nisam izabrala pravo vrijeme za pročitati ovaj osvrt, ali bez obzira drago mi je da jesam. žao mi je da nakon svih ovih godina koje su prošle od rata velik dio ljudi se još bori za osnovnu egzistenciju. Iako uobičajeno izbjegavam teške teme u ya žanru (više bole) mislim da bi mogla dati šansu ovoj. Pozdrav iz Dubrovnika i sve najbolje u Novoj godini!

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