No and Me - Delphine de Vigan

I've been wanting to read this book for a while and it never seemed like a good time. I have been feeling quite down last week (unemployment is not really my friend) and haven't been able to read anything at all, even werewolves stories didn't appeal to me *blasphemy*. Anyways, Sunday I picked up this book and I just fell in love with the story and its characters.

No and Me is the story of 13 years old Lou Bertignac who 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 train stations 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.


Do you know this feeling when you unexpectedly hear a song you love, when you smell your favorite cake from when you were a kid, or when the person that makes your heart beat looks at you ? This is the feeling you'll get reading this book. This is the story you never thought you would read and yet you'll just be falling for it.

The writing is so heart-breakingly pure, full of silent emotions, that you find yourself having feelings for all the characters from the very beginning. 
Delphine de Vigan explained (here) that in the first version of the book, she only talked about No and her life, and didn't go in depth with the character of Lou. In this second version of the book, Lou becomes the main character and gains a real personality and consistency. It is fascinating to read her relationship with her family, or rather, what is left of it after a tragedy that happened when Lou was 8. Lou grows up without her mother, too broken by grief, and her father, doing what he can to save the family. Lou is very young but very mature at the same time, and I think that Delphine de Vigan describes this ambiguity very well.

Lou likes Lucas, her complete opposite (older than his classmates and not very good at school), who seems to like her back. Even though it first appeared to me as a strange relationship, their differences grew on me and I realised it was the very reason why they were attracted to each other. They weren't like any other high school student in their class. And, according to Lou, they both knew the power of words.

The plot is simple, without superfluous and random characters and events. Every character has a place in the plot and evolves through the story. And what a beautiful and touching story it is.

The meaning is important as well, too many people are living in the streets and are not shown enough compassion. "It's their fault, if they were nicer and cleaner, everyone would help them" says Lou at one point without thinking it. This book works also as a sociological study of people living in the streets, women in particular through the character of No, and what it is like: the fear, the wait, the lack of trust etc. No is an incredible character and the bond she has with Lou is very well written.

I would advise this book to everyone. It is too easy nowadays to forget how lucky most of us are. We have everything we need, and even a lot of things we don't need. A little humility can't hurt anyone... especially when it is written with such talent. 
And I'm not saying that because she's French ;-)

1 comment:

  1. The book No and Me sounds lovely. It is wonderful to find a book where the writing is fresh and pure. She sound like an excellent author.