Set in Paris, No and Me tells the story of what happens when French teenager Lou steps outside the boundaries of her life to befriend No, a homeless girl.
This book is short, simply written and quite a quick read, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have some real meaning and punch behind it. I’ve read longer books that skirt around the point and fill scenes with unnecessary description and window dressing – none of that here. You feel that every word is carefully weighed up and measured, every sentence contributes to the overall story. This certainly helps create the protagonist’s voice – like the writing style itself, Lou isn’t a girl to do or say things at a whim, but I did occasionally find this quite frustrating. Sometimes I didn’t want everything to feel so neat and surgical and I thought the chaos in the later scenes might be better expressed if the language and structure reflected the action.
The story has a definite urban, gritty feel – if I had to pick a colour for this book, it would be an overcast, metallic grey – everything civilised, restrained and a little muted. I’m not sure if this is typical of city writing or characteristic of French culture as I occasionally get the same feeling from French music (think Air or Daft Punk)and films (the Three Colours series)or it could all be in my head.
The characters themselves are believable and distinctive; viewed through the eyes of Lou in an endearingly self-conscious way, and the speed at which they reveal themselves and their personalities is well done and appropriate to the arc of the story, though I did feel that there could have been a bit more information about No and what made her tick – a lot of it you had to guess at, it wasn’t explicitly spelled out to Lou.
The only thing I didn’t like was that it felt like there was a big build up to the central event of the story, but the ending felt a bit flat in comparison. I would have preferred there to be more of a sense of closure – instead it had the feel of rushing to stay within a word limit a little bit.
Overall – a good book, more so for the younger end of the YA market I’d say, but maybe also for parents of teenagers, just to remind themselves of how teenagers see the world and how to talk their language and address their concerns. But this isn’t a neat story of happy endings or moral guidance.