I am pleased to say that this book is not chick lit for teens, which I was dreading. As soon as Finn arrived on the scene I groaned and assumed the "handsome boy" was going to make it all better for her, but this is so not the case.
We experience a year in Pearl's life after the death of her mother in childbirth. Pearl is obviously devastated and blames her younger sister. This book is beautifully written in some places, even I nearly shed a tear, which says a lot for the emotive writing by the author.
This book, as a whole, is well rounded, addressing issues that other authors would have glossed over. Pearl has lost her mother and occasionally is a dislikable brat, even if it is for good reason. She does have many redeeming qualities as well as some hard challenges to face.
This is a very engaging read, with a tough subject matter that is handled well. This book makes a welcome change to the dystopian YA novels that are saturating the market at the moment.
The Year of the Rat is already a strong contender for best YA debut of 2014: I laughed, I cried and I never wanted it to end. It's beautifully written and very hard to put down, so much so that I stayed up well into the night to finish it. There was no way I was sleeping until I knew what happened!
Sixteen-year-old Pearl's mum died the day she gave birth to her new baby, Rose. There were complications with the pregnancy, and nothing could be done. Pearl is devastated, she hates Rose (The Rat, as she calls her) and feels like she's all alone in the world. Her dad is pre-occupied with the baby, she's distancing herself from her friends and all she wants is for her mum to walk through the front door.
This is a truly heartbreaking story, but one told with humour and hope. Clare Furniss writes as if she's really experienced everything Pearl is thinking and feeling; whether she has or not I don't know, though I hope she hasn't. I laughed out loud more than once while reading certain lines of dialogue, so snappy and sarcastic that I couldn't help it. I don't make a habit of laughing at sad books, but this one almost demands it - Furniss has a brilliant voice, and her knowledge and understanding of teenagers shines through in her writing.
The Year of the Rat is about a lot of things. It's about grief in its many forms: how if affects people, how to deal with it, how to overcome it and find a way to live with it. It's about family and how they'll always be the people we turn to when we need them, and it's about the power of love.
For me, this is an unforgettable novel. It's sad and poignant and will easily reduce you to tears on more than one occasion. Already I've told everyone about it and I can't get it out of my head. It's like a song that's stuck on repeat, one that I can't help but listen to again and again. It's a long while since I've been so lost in a debut novel, but The Year of the Rat made me forget everything around me. It's YA fiction at it's absolute best.
on 24 June 2014
I purchased this book to read on holiday, having heard it reviewed on Radio 2. I did enjoy the story - about a girl whose mother dies in pregnancy leaving a baby sister who she is intensely jealous of and resents because she blames her for her mother's death. However, some parts seemed a bit far fetched and the relationships (between friends and family) a little unbelievable. It was a light hearted entertaining read but not as gripping as other books I've read.
Narrator Pearl is sixteen and has attitude. One suspects she was probably a handful even before mother Stella died giving birth to premature Rose. Now she is very abrasive, unable to come to terms. Her attitude adds greatly to her father's grief, he heard quietly crying at night.
What will happen when Rose is at long last released from hospital and father is back at work? Will Pearl face up to her responsibilities or forever resent her little sister, continuing to label her "The Rat"?
The circumstances are tragic. Treatment could have been mawkish, but for the most part is not. Much will ring true for readers who have struggled to adjust to heartfelt loss.
Some may feel impact would be greater if Pearl were more likeable. I confess I preferred everybody else in the book: dad; gran; old neighbour Dulcie, her grandson Finn; friend Molly, her boyfriend Ravi; mum's first boyfriend James, who is Pearl's real dad. Several of these have serious problems too, but strive to cope without self-centred wallowing.
Readers may wonder what to make of those visitations from dead Stella. Mystical? Psychological? Or could these and the rest of Pearl's behaviour suggest she has inherited her mother's mental problems? If the latter, it causes the novel to be looked at in a completely new light, it far more significant than first thought.
I cannot claim "The Year of the Rat" was particularly enjoyed, but it certainly provided much to think about.
Pearl's mother has died in childbirth, and Pearl is devastated and furious, with her mum and stepdad, with her premature baby sister, still in a hospital incubator, referred to as the Rat, and perhaps most of all with herself.
Bereavement and the emotions that go with it seem to be a popular topic for young adult fiction at the moment, but I found this particular account of a very difficult year in Pearl's life very moving. Pearl's dead mum remains a vivid character in the story, not only in her memories but as a ghost with some rather bad habits, who turns up smoking in Pearl's room to talk to her. Despite the heartbreak in the story's present, these conversations are often very funny. I found the characters very moving and am still wondering about Pearl and how she might be doing now, long after reading the end of the story.
on 6 June 2014
I was listening to Clare Furniss talking about her book on the radio one evening. I was intrigued and so bought it straight away from Amazon and read it in a day the following weekend. I felt for this girl, the main character. Her raw pain and desolation after her mother's death and totally understood her rejection of her new baby sister to whom she refers to as the rat. The story sees her take a journey of discovery about herself and life enabling her to move forward. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read. It isn't morbid and made a change from the romance and thrillers I usually read. I am looking forward eagerly to Clare's next novel.
This ‘young adult’ novel is nothing to do with the Chinese calendar but it covers a 12 month period with a dozen chapter headings from March to February. It starts with the mother of teenager Pearl (main protagonist narrating the story) dying in childbirth, and the surviving baby is the ‘Rat’. This is the moment the world tips for Pearl who reckons the presence of the baby is ruining her life, and the following chapters plot her grief over the loss of her mother, and describe her growing resentment at the way her step-father (biological father of the Rat) idolises the baby.
Readers will immediately have sympathy for Pearl but I found her increasingly self-centred and selfish. As a grandfather I may view Pearl’s bitterness and anger differently than young adults but I felt unusually uncomfortable with a main protagonist wallowing in so much self-inflicted distress. She is surrounded by nice caring people but makes herself an outcast, not just with her step-father and her grandmother but even with her best girlfriend and a potential boyfriend, to say nothing about Pearl’s conflicts with her school. To some degree author Clare Furniss cleverly gives credit to Pearl for trying to cope in her own way, and she skilfully ensures Pearl’s destructive traits are balanced with humour, especially with input from her mother, but this did not settle my unease.
I felt uncomfortable over the paranormal communications between Pearl and her dead mother for whom Pearl remembers all the good points and skirts around any deficiencies. Even with her dead mother Pearl fails to talk honestly and she hides the truth of her hatred of the Rat. ‘The Year of the Rat’ focusses on these relationships and slowly moves to its fairly predictable conclusion which I won’t spoil – but how can Pearl get over her grief? – how can she recognise the love and caring of others?
My thirteen year old daughter read this book and this is her review and rating.
When 16 year old Pearl is left without her mum, she finds it hard to accept the fact her mother died giving birth to her sister, the rat. Pearl is stuck with her stepdad, who spends the majority of his day at the hospital visiting the 'rat', when he isn't at work. Pearl confines her emotions, and doesn't let anyone attempt to sympathise with her, especially her best friend Molly and her neighbours grandson Finn.
I didn't feel like Pearl was a very likeable character at the beginning, as she blocked everyone out. However, I felt her character changed through the course of the book dramatically. At the start, she hides her anger and sadness, but by the end she is open and happy and a stronger main character.
I also found Pearl quite self-centred in the sense that many other characters were also going through tough times: Dulcie (her neighbour) who was moving into an old age home and losing her grandson, James ( her actual father) who was constantly trying to contact Pearl and Molly (her best friend) who loved her boyfriend but felt she was losing her best friend.
I felt this book was quite obvious from the start, and an easy read. I felt I could relate to some characters, but not Pearl. It was okay but I think it could have been better
on 30 January 2015
The Year of the Rat has to be one of the most heartbreaking books I have ever read. Not that that is a bad thing. On the contrary, it made it one of the best books I have read in a long time.
Mid-teens is a difficult time anyway, but having the circumstances thrown onto you that Pearl did, makes it even harder. And Furniss grasps that turmoil of being a teenager, and going through intense greif perfectly. I found it incredibly difficult to put down, partially becuase I had a completely free afternoon, so nothing to call me away from it, but mainly becuase it is written in such an engaging way. Yes, it is the sort of book that will leave your eyes a tad moist, and yes, you may want to go full out on the chocolate front afterwards, but in all honesty, it is a quality, quality read.
Pearl's emotional journey thoughout the novel is realistic, and the supporting cast of characters, and their reactions to Pearl throughout the year make this book rounded and full of heart. I strongly recommend this book - you will come out the other end with a warm feeling in your heart.
on 14 March 2016
A faultless tale of loss and grief. Pearl loses her mother through complications in pregnancy and goes through shock, devastation, rage, sadness, guilt and a tendency to self destruction as a result. To make things worse, her baby sister survives and takes the love and attention Pearl is used to having herself. This is a painful read, but the stages of bereavement are beautifully portrayed and we feel with Pearl even as she's her own worst enemy. The journey to acceptance of her loss and of her little sister and her own new place in the family makes me cry until I'm a soggy wreck every time I read the book. I don't usually like books that make me cry, but this one is different, perhaps because it rings so true to me (having experienced loss myself) and because in the long run, it's such a positive journey Pearl makes. Highly recommended.