Delphine de Vigan in London !

Following my post on the talk with No and Me French author Delphine de Vigan, I am posting now what was said !

FYI: I bought the French version of the book and she signed it in French

No and Me Amazon summary:
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.

      Delphine de Vigan is a very laid back and inspired writer, it is very interesting to hear her talk about various subjects. She had been working full time for her first four books, writing only at night, and has now quit. She used to work in companies and analyse the work relations between employees. No and Me is her fourth novel but her first and only book for Young Adult.

      By the way, the entire genre of YA books is actually not very developed in France, there are books for children, some books for teenagers and then adult books. YA books are very hard to classify, that's why they get printed by 'adult books' publishers, because there are no publishers specifically specialised in YA. Even if the genre is gaining momentum, it is still very limited to very popular books like Twilight or Harry Potter, and doesn't reach public recognition, in the sense that most adults and book critics wouldn't know that it constitutes a genre in itself and thousands of YA books are published worldwide every year.
      No and Me has been published and marketed in France as an 'Adult Book' at first but was also included into school curriculums. It was actually clear during the talk, that Delphine de Vigan herself didn't know exactly how to classify the book, saying that it isn't because the main character is 13, that the book is made for children, and that her publishers had some discussions about how to present the book to the public.

On the writing style
      Delphine de Vigan explained that it had been a choice, very early on, not to try to mimic the language of young people. First because it would have been completely ridiculous: she doesn't speak like this, and it would have been hard to present anything credible. But also because she thinks that most of the kids are today "bilingual" when it comes to the French (or English, or other) language and their own expressions and ways of communicating. So even teenagers would understand a normal use of the language. It's also a way of making the story timeless in the sense that the teen slang she would have used would become outdated in a few months.
      What she describes in the book are actually real places with sometimes real homeless people that are 'famous' in their parts of Paris. She wanted to give a sense of reality to the story. Delphine de Vigan made a lot of research with social workers, also by talking to homeless women to give that sense of reality to the story. 

On the character of Lou
      Delphine de Vigan told us that she had written a first version of the book, and that upon reading it, her editor told her she had done only half of the work and that she needed to develop the character of Lou. It was her fourth novel, and it was the first time she had this reaction from her editor. After thinking about it, she realised that her editor was right. She had meant to write the story to raise awareness on the situation of homeless people, especially young women, but from the point of view of another character. So she rewrote completely her novel to give more space to Lou to actually become a character of its own. Which makes that now the story is also about Lou and not just about No.
      She used the characteristic of being precocious to isolate Lou from other characters. She is tiny compared to all the persons in her class, they call her "the brain", she doesn't have many friends etc. She also liked the idea of the love story between Lou and her complete opposite Lucas.
      Delphine de Vigan did get some inspiration from her life, especially concerning that sense of exclusion, that is very common among teenagers. 

On the response she received
      Delphine de Vigan explained how she had completely different responses as to what the book meant. Some people said it was very grim and dark, because it talks about a young homeless girl ; and others thought it was funny and light saying that it presented this homeless issue in a very sensitive way. 
      She also pointed that she had very mixed reactions depending on the age of her readers. Her young readers would get completely the contrary from the adult readers. Fo rinstance, of the twenty something people there were at the talk, only a handful (me!) were in their twenties, and the rest were people in their forties and above.

So technically, I haven't read the book yet, so I can't advise you to read it now, but I will post a review soon.

On the other hand, Becky @ The Bookette did read the book and wrote an amazing review on No and Me, so you can check it out here !



  1. This is really fascinating, especially the parts about the lack of a strong YA market in France and people's differing interpretations of No and Me. I really want to read it!

  2. That's why I had to leave France... Not enough YA books to keep me entertained ;)