Published by Bloomsbury Children's on August 3rd 2010
Genres: young adult, contemporary
Buy on Amazon
The international award-winning story of two girls from different backgrounds, united in friendship
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.
Every now and then I have a tough time deciding what to read next. Lots of people have TBR jars. I think this is a fantastic idea, but I’m a bit too lazy for that. So what do I do? I random.org it. That’s how I ended up choosing No and Me. I knew I wanted to read an ebook, so I opened my Kindle, tallied up how many there were, went to random.org, and let the site choose what I should read. It doesn’t always work because sometimes it picks a book I am completely not in the mood for (then I cheat and hit the button again), but I’m glad it picked No and Me. I don’t think I would have picked this one ever on my own. I believe I purchased it on a Kindle Daily Deal, and sometimes it takes me YEARS to read those.
I have a new respect for the homeless that I didn’t really have before. Empathy, man. It goes a long way. I’ve been one of those people that looks the other way and tried to avoid eye contact with homeless people. And I feel absolutely fucking terrible for doing this. It is so easy to become one of them. One thing can go wrong, and then you are spiraling downward with no way out, and you end up homeless because there is nobody, and I mean nobody, that will give you a helping hand. Some people don’t have family. Some people don’t so easily have a roof over their head or food to eat. Some people are born into the foster system, never get out of it, then age out at 18, and end up homeless with nowhere to go. I can’t even imagine what this is like and I won’t even try to trivialize their experience with words, but often I am reminded of how lucky and privileged I am, and I don’t even have that much. But I am incredibly thankful for what I do have, and if someone asks me for help in the future, I’m not going to look away from them like I have in the past.
I remember my parents always saying they ignored the homeless because all they wanted from them was money for alcohol. It’s a stereotype the homeless have always had, but what if that money for alcohol is the one thing that keeps them going when it’s fucking cold and they are literally sleeping on a flattened-out cardboard box and living out of a shopping cart?
I know this is supposed to be a book review, but sometimes books really make me feel things and the experiences and emotions I am left with are just as valid as what’s on the pages. Books that make you think are the books that stay with you the most, I think. Honestly, it’s the feelings that stuck with me and not the story itself. I remember the characters vividly, but the plot was rather simple, and not all that detailed. That doesn’t mean it was bad, though, it’s just that this is a VERY character-driven novel. It’s about the writing, and about the relationships between No (a homeless girl–not sure her age was ever mentioned), and Lou, her parents, and Lou’s best friend Lucas.
I also really felt like the city of Paris was a character all its own. The author did a fantastic job of bringing the other side of the city to life. The poverty, the trains, the seedy motels–it’s not all beautiful, and yet in a way it WAS beautiful reading about that other dynamic. The part of Paris that makes it human and real, and not surface.
No eventually comes to live with Lou’s family, and this is the part of the story that worked, and at the same time, didn’t work for me. I loved the way the story developed, and the relationship No had with Lou’d parents, and Lucas as well. I just feel…how many people would take a homeless person in and let them live with you? One that isn’t related to you–one that you don’t know all that well, and you are trusting the judgment of your teenage daughter to tell you that No’s okay. I just found it a little hard to believe. Don’t get me wrong–I am super thankful that Lou’s parents were that giving, and that they DID trust their daughter, but Lou’s experiences as a teenager are not my experiences, and it was hard for me to go with that part of the story.
No and Me doesn’t end with a bang, but with a whimper. It’s quiet, it’s bittersweet, and it leaves you thinking about the many different ideas it presents. Overall, it’s a super quiet book about real life, what can go wrong, and how people choose to be there (or not be there) for each other. I don’t often pick books like this for myself to read, and I’m glad I gave it a shot. While it wasn’t perfect for me, I think it will stay with me for a good long while.