Release date: 1st March 2010 UK
Genre: Realism / Issues
Target audience: 12+
Summary from Waterstones.com:
Lou Bertignac has an IQ of 160 and a good friend in class rebel Lucas. At home her father puts a brave face on things but cries in secret in the bathroom, while her mother rarely speaks and hardly ever leaves the house. To escape this desolate world, Lou goes often to Gare d'Austerlitz to see the big emotions in the smiles and tears of arrival and departure. But there she also sees the homeless, meets a girl called No, only a few years older than herself, and decides to make homelessness the topic of her class presentation. Bit by bit, Lou and No become friends until, the project over, No disappears. Heartbroken, Lou asks her parents the unaskable question and her parents say: Yes, No can come to live with them. So Lou goes down into the underworld of Paris's street people to bring her friend up to the light of a home and family life, she thinks.
No and Me is the story of Lou Bertignac. A girl who is gifted with an extraordinarily high IQ of 160. For that reason, she is a thirteen year old studying in a class of fifteen year olds. Not only does she stand out because she interprets the world differently, but because she is smaller and less physically developed than the rest of her classmates. Lou's narrative voice is genuinely engaging and endearing. The style of the writing is so accessible that I just fell into the heart of this story and did not want to put it down.
Lou is a remarkable girl who carries out investigations and experiments on the world around her. She tests a range of ready meals to see how much of their content is the same. She measures, she calculates and she seeks to understand the workings of the world. She drifts off on tangents as her mind runs with an idea and she appears disconnected from the people around her. Lou is a fully rounded, quirky and interesting character to read about. There are two other main characters in this novel No and Lucas. No is an eighteen year old homeless girl who Lou connects with and in a way investigates. Lucas is seventeen and is in the same class as Lou because he has been held back two years. He is the ultimate cool guy and rather charming. Each of these characters has a striking depth and mystery about them.
The plot explores their three identities and the relationship between them. In fact in terms of action, there isn't all that much that happens in this book. It is definitely character driven and that is its beauty. The interactions between Lou, No and Lucas and the outside world are fascinating. It is Lou's telling of the story that makes you want to read on.
No and Me also explores contemporary issues. It shows the reader the realities of life for young homeless women in France. It looks at grief, loss and mental illness. It touches on the wrongs in society and inequality and the bureaucracy and barriers that prevents change.
This was a book that I enjoyed every second of reading. The simple narrative is honest, funny and endearing. The heart of the book had meaning and depth. It took me into present day France and showed me some dark truths. But there was also hope and that hope was Lou. A quirky and courageous character who had me believing in a better future so long as we strive for it. No and Me is a great story!
NB: No and Me is currently in production in France and is due for release at the cinema in the Autumn.