Author: Delphine de Vigan
Summary: Set in Paris, a quirky and gifted thirteen year old girl, Lou, meets a homeless girl, No, and their relationship has intriguing consequences. Lou’s parents still mourn the death of her baby sister, and Lou is struggling to cope with her mother’s reclusive tendencies and her father’s secret crying. Initially Lou interviews No for a school project on homelessness however the friendship they develop leads to Lou inviting No to live with her still-grieving family. Typically described as a story about finding “home” and notions of “homelessness”, I feel it is also a story about relationships, family, belonging, and love – and the innocence of someone who needs to believe in these things.
Favourite Scene: I loved early descriptions of Lou’s obsessive tendencies and odd projects, particularly her collection of food labels. Her obsessive compulsive behaviours are so elegantly described! I found them to be an endearing quality to her character.
Favourite Character: I found the ways in which Lou’s parents continue to mourn for their dead daughter intriguing and emotive, and I could sympathise with Lou’s reclusive mother. I especially appreciated her development as the novel unravelled and No’s influence on all members of the family became apparent.
Review: Originally published as a novel for adults, it is cross-promoted to young adult audiences and it is easy to see why. There is a neat simplicity in the narration, told from Lou’s perspective, and the youth of the protagonist allows for a somewhat naive perception of the world to be easily accepted by the reader. As the not-so-innocent reality is made apparent, the development of plot and character flows well. Fortunately, the ending was not Hollywood-cliche and I appreciated the realism of the characters without de Vigan having to depend on gritty negativity or naive optimism to create a believable and poignant ending. The slow pace is complemented with intricate characters and a beautiful innocence on Lou’s part, and I found it to be an enjoyable novel overall.