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Parisian teenager Lou has an IQ of 160, OCD tendencies, and a mother who has suffered from depression for years. But Lou is about to change her life—and that of her parents—all because of a school project about homeless teens. While doing research, Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets. As their friendship grows, Lou bravely asks her parents if No can live with them, and is astonished when they agree. No's presence forces Lou's family to come to terms with a secret tragedy. But can this shaky, ...
Parisian teenager Lou has an IQ of 160, OCD tendencies, and a mother who has suffered from depression for years. But Lou is about to change her life—and that of her parents—all because of a school project about homeless teens. While doing research, Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets. As their friendship grows, Lou bravely asks her parents if No can live with them, and is astonished when they agree. No's presence forces Lou's family to come to terms with a secret tragedy. But can this shaky, newfound family continue to live together when No's own past comes back to haunt her?
Winner of the prestigious Booksellers' Prize in France, No and Me is a timely and thought-provoking novel about homelessness that has far-reaching appeal.
Posted September 1, 2011
The last French novel I read (in translation) was Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which centered on a precocious girl genius who befriends a concierge. Today I finished Delphine De Vigan's No and Me, another French novel, again about a precocious girl genius who befriends. in this case a homeless girl called No. I'm not sure if the prevalence of girl geniuses tells you anything about my readings tastes or French literature. But if you're only going to read one French novel in translation anytime soon, I'd recommend No and Me.
While Lou, the narrator of No and Me, is undoubtedly a little odd, she's also sweet, shy, brutally honest about her own shortcomings, and very convincingly nervous in the world of older children and adults. Pushed ahead of her grade in school, she's the smallest kid in class, seriously in danger of becoming the teacher's pet. And no-one seems to understand why she doesn't want to give a presentation. (Any parent of shy children will relate-and any formerly shy child.)
Meanwhile No is just another of the city's many homeless young women, and it's purely by chance that she asks Lou for money. Something-a need for friendship, a need to be noticed, a need to be someone more than who everyone else assumes they are-draws the two girls together. Lou finds herself researching statistics of homelessness while learning its realities from her friend. But a child who can't switch her brain off seems in danger of exploding, and all around her Lou sees personalities falling apart-that fragile fabric between security and loss so easily torn and so hard to ignore.
Lou's own life has been colored by loss. As she relates to and eventually tries to repair her friend, new threads knit into deeper revelations. There's kindness, joy and gritty determination in this novel that never quite heals the wounds of the broken but somehow still makes them clear. There's the innocence of a young child growing up, and the sweetness of new love and old, compromise, honesty and hope.
The ending combines brutal reality with beauty in a masterful way and leaves the reader simultaneously sad and smiling and delighted to have shared in the lives told here. A lyrical, haunting, thought-provoking tale that sheathes its claws in sheer humanity.
Disclosure: My sister-in-law really does know what sort of books I'll like. I loved this gift from her.
Posted January 28, 2011
Lou Bertignac is horrified about the thought of having to give a presentation in class. She is two years younger than the rest of her class, having skipped two grades. And that 2-year difference is glaringly obvious to Lou. She is tiny compared to everyone else, and the popular girls, Axelle and Lea, are pretty. And Lucas, at the back of the class, is totally self-assured, even when their teacher is admonishing him. Lou chooses the topic of homelessness for her presentation. Her teacher, Mr. Marin, is excited by the topic and offers to supply her with articles and statistics. Lou tells him that she's going to interview some of the homeless in the city for an inside view. This is how she comes to meet No(lwenn). She spots No at the train station. Lou likes to people watch, and the station is one of her favorite places to do this. After tentative steps, Lou convinces No to join her at a local café, and the two begin to talk. No is very hesitant at first, and refuses to talk about herself, only those on the street with her. As time goes by, No starts to wait for Lou to arrive. When Lou's project is over, No disappears. Lou is haunted by the desperation in No's face, and decides to do something about it. Lou asks her family if No can move in with them, but her family has issues of their own. Her mother lost a young baby and has never been the same since. Her father has been juggling a job and home responsibilities. But surprisingly, they agree to allow No into their home. Once No arrives, Lou learns firsthand how living on the street can affect someone to the core. Even with the acceptance of Lou's family, and the aid provided by Lucas, No has trouble trying to embrace a life she's unfamiliar with. No's own mother didn't love her and No has let positive chances slip through her fingers. No's struggles are a harsh awakening for Lou, but throughout, Lou tries to save No. NO AND ME was originally released in 2007 in French. It was translated to English in 2009 and we are now finally able to enjoy this wonderful story. If you did not know that it was originally published in French, you'd have no idea that English wasn't the original language. The story translates beautifully and is written in such a way that No and Lou could be in any city. Though it takes place in Paris, the story is applicable to any large city that has a homeless population. If this story opens your eyes to just one homeless person, I think it has done its job well. After all, as Lou ponders in the book, if everyone helped just one of the homeless, think of what a better place the world would be.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 26, 2010
I felt nothing. Have you ever read a book, where you feel no emotions about it. This is what I felt with No and Me. Maybe it's because I don't really comprehend the situation, because I'm to young. Or that where I live, you don't really see any homeless people. Or, I don't know. But I really wanted to have feelings about this story, but it just didn't happen.
I think the problem with this book, is that the character narrates to much. She tells you to much, instead of the author describing it. And I believe that, that may be one of the reasons why I felt it had no affect on me. I mean, the one situation in the story is that Lou's family is falling apart. I rather Lou describe it to me, then tell it. Also, in that situation, it was brought in to quickly in the story. I wished that issue were slowly brought to my attention, then immediately. Because I had the strong sense that I was dropping into a conversation that started a millennium ago, and I was only joining it now.
Even through all that, I still found it a intriguing read. It's quick paste, and you want to learn more and more. The characters (Lou, No & Lucas) were nicely written. Especially Lou (the protagonist). Lou has an IQ of 160, so she acts differently then most girls. She is very smart, but acts very childish. And for a while, it was hard to believe that she was in high school. So I asked my aunt, because my cousin is the same as Lou, and she totally agreed that, that is how someone would act. Or how my cousin acts. One thing that I could connect and understand about Lou, is that she's shy. She has a hard time talking to people, and doing stuff that out of her boundary line. No (and yes that is a name, short for Nolwenn) is a interesting character. I can't relate with her, though I know people who have some of the problems that she does. And I can connect with her as a bystander. Lucas on the other hand, is the type of guy I would like to have in my life. That is all I'm going to say about him.
I don't think I would find myself recommending this book to someone. But if someone ask me, I would tell them to read it. It has an important message in there, that I think is useful to learn about. This is the type of book where you have to reread it a few times to fully understand it, especially the ending. I didn't enjoy the ending, because I didn't understand it fully. And I think if I reread this, I would comprehend it.
Overall it was a great read, but not the best. Another thing is, it's important to remember that this is a translated book. So there is some cultural differences in it.
Posted May 28, 2011
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Posted April 1, 2011
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