Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Fifteen year old Pearl's mum has just died. Not only that, but she has left Pearl and her dad with a tiny, ugly rat to look after. As if Pearl hasn't have enough to deal with, now her dad - step dad actually - spends all his time at the hospital fussing over that stupid baby. Mum didn't even want the baby in the first place. Why would she when she had Pearl? And now she's dead and it's all Dad's fault.
And Mum's not helping either. She's as argumentative as ever, even though she IS dead, and nearly gives Pearl a heart attack every time she turns up. And though it's good to have her around, Pearl can't risk telling Mum how she really feels, which makes Pearl feel more lonely than ever.
Things go from bad to worse as Pearl tries to deal with the fact that she is no longer the centre of her parents' universe. She can't even bring herself to confide in her best friend. It's easier to just shut everybody out. It seems that Pearl hates everybody, especially herself.
It's only when things reach crisis point that Pearl finally accepts that she is loved and loveable. That her feelings are understandable and that they don't make her a bad person, just a sad one.
I really loved this book, mainly because Pearl's character is so authentic. She is complex, vulnerable, belligerent and self-centered. She is filled with self-doubt, is highly sensitive and feels isolated and alone. To a casual observer, she might seem selfish, aggressive, and harsh. But we know better because we are party to her terrible suffering and internal turmoil.
The Year of the Rat is Clare Furniss' debut novel. And what a cracker it is! My 11 year old read this book in two sittings.
Note: This book contains references to alcohol abuse and emotional disturbance.
Recommended for children aged 12 years and over.
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2014
This book was given to me by the publisher though the decision to review was my own.
Furniss on Twitter: @ClareFurniss