On the surface No and Me seems like a run of the mill Young Adult novel of a teenage girl dealing with both a family tragedy and growing up. Dig a little deeper though and this book is so much more than that, largely because of two factors. The first being the simple yet emotion filled writing style. The story is told not just from a first person point of view but it really did read as if an intelligent teen was retelling it - including those unique rambley off-topic moments, which all just added to the character and effect of the book. In some ways it reminded me of Catcher in the Rye.
The second aspect of this book which made it unlike so many others was Lou herself. Her character was very much like the protagonist in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (Mark Haddon) in that she used intellectual means, such as mathematical problems, for coping with the emotions of every day life. I really liked how Lou was extremely intelligent but at the same time had issues functioning with normal life. At one point she states that she has an IQ of 160 but can't tie her own shoe laces. She doesn't socialise well and dreads the presentation she has to do in front of the class. She collects food labels to compare the ingredients and conducts various experiments at home just to satisfy her curiosity.
Through Lou we also get to know No, the homeless girl who eventually comes to live with the family, and Lucas a boy in Lou's class. No clearly has her own issues to deal with - living on the streets and then adapting to family life - as does Lucas. Lou and Lucas are complete opposites in their class at school. Lou is two years ahead and Lucas is two years behind. Lucas is the only one who really pays attention to Lou and it makes a unique friendship. There is also the interesting contrast between the naive Lou and the tough, streetwise No. all three are great characters in their own way.
Personally I really enjoyed No and Me but I can see that it is probably one of those love it or hate it kind of books. I'd definitely recommend it if you liked the above mentioned books or if you're looking for something a little bit different.
on 24 February 2011
No and Me is an unusual story about two French girls from totally different backgrounds who become friends. Lou Bertignac (Me of the title) is a lonely but extremely bright schoolgirl who lives with her parents in Paris. She has a close relationship with her father but has become detached from her mother. Outside of her home environment she hasn't any friends and spends a lot of her time in thought puzzling on life's many conundrums. Nolwenn (No of the title) is a streetwise homeless eighteen year old who has no family to turn to and lives rough on the streets of Paris.
In a knee-jerk reaction to the questioning of one of her teachers, Lou decides to prepare a project for presentation to the class at school on the homeless. It is while trying to research this that she befriends No.
The novel develops the burgeoning relationship between the two girls in a sympathetic and honest way, highlighting how sometimes it is easier for Lou to talk to No about growing up than it is to discuss these worries with her parents. The book also explores the relationship that develops between No and Lou's parents as the friendship between the two girls becomes stronger and they begin to develop a greater mutual support and understanding for each other.
This is a brief synopsis of the novel and I do not want to go into more depth than I have above because I do not want to give too much of the story away.
In addition to the above, there are many thought provoking questions put forward by Lou throughout the book, to both her father and No, as she attempts to understand her surroundings, and the adult world she is trying to comprehend, which for me added to the overall content of the novel.
I also feel this would be a good choice of book for a Book Club as it offers many topics and issues which could be discussed in a group setting.
on 1 March 2010
I read this book in a day, it was so quick and easy and light to get through, yet the subject matter is quite dark in places. There is a lot about loss, about silence and about the violent qualities of those things. Charmingly told through the eyes of a child.
I loved this novel. A beautiful translation of a French book by Delphine de Vigan. This is an incredibly moving and heartfelt tale. Our narrator is Lou Bertignac, a teenage girl living in Paris. In some ways she is incredibly intelligent and a very deep thinker for her age, yet in others she is iinexperienced and innocent. She decides to do a presentation, which she is dreading, to her class on the topic of homelessness, and one day, when at the station induldging in some people watching, she encounters No (short for Nolwenn). No is 18 and homeless. And so begins the story of 'No and Me', as Lou's life is impacted by her new acquantaince with dramatic and lasting results.
This is a wonderful story. It is a fairly short novel, and I think will appeal to young adults and older readers alike. It is very well narrated by Lou, her point of view seems to be captured perfectly. Predominantly we learn about Lou's relationships with her father, good, and with her mother, not so good, and with Lucas, a boy at school who is the one other person in her class that she feels she might understand or have a bond with, despite or perhaps because of, his stark differences to her way of behaving. The chapters are short and encourage you to just keep reading a little bit more.
I really liked the character of Lou, and her attempts to do right, and to reconcile this with the reality of life and its' constraints. I felt that I could really put myself in her place, and understand how she felt about her mother, and about No. So glad to have read this.
No and Me is a touching story about friendship, and what it means to stand by someone when they have no-one else to turn to. It's well written and easy to get caught up in, making it a must-read novel for 2010.
Lou is a charming narrator, and is one of the best I've come across in recent teen fiction. She's far too old for her age, yet innocent when it comes to boys, kissing and other parts of growing up that inevitably play on the teenage mind. She has a kind heart and good intentions, and though she has family problems of her own, she never lets them detract her attention away from No. She really is the best friend you could have, and I loved her.
No, on the other hand, took me a bit longer to warm to. I couldn't figure out what her intentions were, and whether she was just exploiting Lou's kindness. It turns out she wasn't, and by the end of the book, I was rooting for her like you wouldn't believe. Being homeless sounds like hell, and the fact that she coped with it is an achievement in itself. Of course, she had help in the form of Lou and her friend Lucas, and I dread to think where she'd have ended up without them.
Delphine de Vigan's story really appealed to me, with its portrayal of a family in crisis, life in Paris and one girl's unwavering determination to set a stranger's life back on track. It's heartbreaking and hopeful, and leaves you with the knowledge that there are still exceptional people in the world. You just have to be in the right place at the right time to find them.
on 18 March 2010
No and Me is the story of Lou Bertignac. A girl who is gifted with an extraordinarily high IQ of 160. For that reason, she is a thirteen year old studying in a class of fifteen year olds. Not only does she stand out because she interprets the world differently, but because she is smaller and less physically developed than the rest of her classmates. Lou's narrative voice is genuinely engaging and endearing. The style of the writing is so accessible that I just fell into the heart of this story and did not want to put it down.
Lou is a remarkable girl who carries out investigations and experiments on the world around her. She tests a range of ready meals to see how much of their content is the same. She measures, she calculates and she seeks to understand the workings of the world. She drifts off on tangents as her mind runs with an idea and she appears disconnected from the people around her. Lou is a fully rounded, quirky and interesting character to read about. There are two other main characters in this novel No and Lucas. No is an eighteen year old homeless girl who Lou connects with and in a way investigates. Lucas is seventeen and is in the same class as Lou because he has been held back two years. He is the ultimate cool guy and rather charming. Each of these characters has a striking depth and mystery about them.
The plot explores their three identities and the relationship between them. In fact in terms of action, there isn't all that much that happens in this book. It is definitely character driven and that is its beauty. The interactions between Lou, No and Lucas and the outside world are fascinating. It is Lou's telling of the story that makes you want to read on.
No and Me also explores contemporary issues. It shows the reader the realities of life for young homeless women in France. It looks at grief, loss and mental illness. It touches on the wrongs in society and inequality and the bureaucracy and barriers that prevents change.
This was a book that I enjoyed every second of reading. The simple narrative is honest, funny and endearing. The heart of the book had meaning and depth. It took me into present day France and showed me some dark truths. But there was also hope and that hope was Lou. A quirky and courageous character who had me believing in a better future so long as we strive for it. No and Me is a great story to be enjoyed by teens and adults alike!
on 23 July 2010
"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."
I'm very glad I agreed to review this book, it's one I probably wouldn't have picked up in Waterstones but I've enjoyed it regardless. As a book it's very serious, don't expect there to be a punchline on every page, but at the same time it isn't depressing, though that is the impression one might get from reading the synopsis.
The story is very descriptive to the point that the reader almost feels like they are Lou. Lou is a very naïve character who likes to think that everything in the world has a system and that if she can teach herself that system, then she will know exactly how the world works. Of course it doesn't work like that and the character of No opens her up to the real world more and more as the story progresses. The two characters complement each other very well and although No is technically poorer than Lou, with No around Lou's life grows richer.
The book itself is made up of short chapters of about four pages long. This makes it very easy for the reader to convince themselves to read "just one more chapter", which soon turns into ten more and going to bed at insane times. In my opinion, the best books are the most addictive ones and this one is definitely addictive.
I found this book a pleasure to read and my only slight annoyance was the ending of the book. Whilst it had a sense of being finished, there were still some questions I wanted answering, almost as if we should expect a continuation of the story from De Vigan.
I would recommend "No and Me" to anyone who enjoys a more serious read from time to time. A very mature read; I'm sure adults will enjoy this as much as teens.
on 19 June 2010
`When I was with No, you could have drawn a circle around us, a circle I wasn't excluded from, which enclosed us and for a few minutes protected us from the world' - Lou
No and Me by Delphine de Vigan is partially focused on the life of Lou Bertignac, a 13 year old who has an IQ of 160 and lives in Paris. She's skipped two years at school, so feels alone and really small compared to her peers. Her friend, Lucas, has been held back two years, and with him, she manages.
However, her home life isn't all fun and games. After a tragic event, Lou's mother goes into hibernation and her father starts pretending, and it soon comes to the surface that Lou is lonely.
She performs experiments in her home because of that. For example:
The reaction of different types of bread at setting 8 on the toaster, how long it takes footprints to vanish on the damp floor, how long a mouth-print takes to disappear from a misted-up mirror and more.
Lou goes to Austerlitz railway station to watch people when she meets No, a girl who lives on the streets. Lou doesn't realise how much No will change her life when they become friends. If Lou's parents said no when Lou asked if No could stay at their house, then the events that followed would not happen.
No and Me is one of those books where you get sucked right in to the characters' lives. I really felt for what happened with Lou and No. However, sometimes I felt a little disappointed in No, because I thought she could have handled situations better, but hey, she had had a rough life, so I think it made it more realistic.
No as a character was really hard to understand, she had such a great mix of emotions and it was hard to tell what she was thinking. Because of that, you knew she had had a rough past, and a large portion of the book is about whether No can try and move forward with her life, and try to let the past go.
Sometimes I felt that if Lou's mum and dad were so estranged, why they had allowed No to come in to the house - I mean, in the UK that wouldn't happen very often. But I'm not an expert of what happens in France, I've only ever seen one French film (never read an originally French book about France) so it confused me slightly.
I believe the relationships described in the book are all really quaint and are developed really well - Delphine de Vigan understands how people react to things and it made the book something of a treasure trove.
If you get the chance to purchase No and Me, get it!
Rating - 5 Stars
As I said above, I believe the relationships are very well put across, but also I think there are interesting lessons and things to think about on reading it. It makes you think about life, friendship, and what it means to take care of someone.
on 30 July 2013
This was such a heart-warming book, going to show that you can attempt to change the world bit by bit, however, unsuccessful the end result may be. It takes a lot of courage to take in a homeless person, when you do not know anything about them and attempt to deal with their problems without knowing huge amounts about the cause. It brings a family together and allows people to explore their own personalities allowing you to become more comfortable with who you are, and how you can move towards the future.
It was sad how it ended with characters unable to overcome their issues, but I feel she had done everything she could to help Lou and Lou had done everything she could to help No.
It was beautifully written although short and contained plenty of emotion, really making myself think about what I would do in the situation and how I escape from my own life. It was more aimed towards the younger reader but this does not take away from the story in anyway and I recommend it to readers of any age.
‘No’ is Nolwenn, a teenage down and out; ‘Me’ is the narrator, Lou Bertignac, a precocious thirteen-year old. In Delphine de Vigan’s award winning 2007 novel, very well translated by George Miller, we first meet the latter as she is challenged in class by her teacher to decide on a topic for her class presentation. She selects ‘the homeless’ at random and, when pushed, decides to base her work around an interview with a young homeless woman.
Lou’s family is under stress following the withdrawal of her mother after the sudden death of her sister, Chloe, and the inability of her businessman father, a very sympathetic character, to resolve matters. Lou is left to her own devices and spends her time, once she has read her encyclopaedias from cover to cover, comparing the ingredients of different frozen meals and thinking about life’s big questions – how far does the sky go and whether it ever ends.’ She seeks firm rules – ‘If you get to like it, grammar reveals the hidden meaning of history, hides disorder and abandonment, links things and brings opposites together. Grammar is a wonderful way of organizing the world how you’d like it to be.’
At school, where she is in a class for older students, she is regarded as too much of child to form any real friendships apart from a rather unlikely one with seventeen-year old Lucas Muller who lives alone at home following the separation and departure of his parents.
This could have been a rather whimsical conflation of ‘Cathy Come Home’ and ‘Jules et Jim’ had not the writing and translation been so compelling, particularly in the character of the Lou. She sets out alone for the Gare d’Austerlitz where she meets No, ‘wearing dirty khakhi trousers, an old jacket with holes in the elbows and a Benetton scarf like the one my mother’s got at the bottom of the wardrobe as a souvenir of her youth.’
Despite the odds, Lou gains No’s confidence and learns about her life [‘Settle. Move on. Avoid risks. On the streets there are rules and there are dangers. Best not to stand out. Keep your head down. Blend into the background. Don’t stray on to someone else’s turf. Don’t look people in the eye. Out there she’s nothing but prey.’] Lou’s presentation is a success but she cannot bear to leave No and begins her attempts to save her, culminating in No’s moving in with the family, a situation that is understandable within the context of de Vigan’s story.
No becomes the sibling that Lou lost and her presence begins to heal the family’s scars. She even manages to get a job and earn money, and Lou naïvely believes that her problems are solved. Of course, life is much harder and Lou is unaware what No is doing to earn her money. A return to drink and drugs results in No being asked to leave the house and to Lou and Lucas trying to look after her. He is sufficiently experienced in life’s downsides to know that the chances of success are slim and tries to alert Lou to this liklihood.
There are no sudden twists or shocks in this book, just a story that proceeds in the expected direction. Because of this and the simplicity of its language, the book will no doubt resonate with teenager readers [Bloomsbury’s marketing strategy has separate covers for this and the adult markets]. After all, how can such a technologically advanced society be ‘capable of letting people die in the street’?
No’s character is never fully revealed because she has to protect herself from so many of life’s hurts – she constructs stories that may be, but almost certainly are not, true - about her birth, her mother and the boyfriend, Laurent, who is waiting for her in Ireland. There are occasional indications of what might lie beneath the various shells with which she protects herself but these are not picked up by Lou who, until the end, is overtly optimistic that No’s life will get back on track.
The very last page suggests that Lou and Lucas may move on from their experiences with No, who has been a catalyst to change the lives of all those who have met her. How many readers will be motivated to do anything practical to improve the lives of the many Nos is quite another matter. Not quite the powerful book hailed by the French public but I will look out for other books by de Vigan.