I received a copy from Netgalley.
I must admit I didn’t read the blurb properly on this book. It came through in a reader recommend thing from Netgalley on my email. I was at work at the time and just glanced it over, the premise was enough to peek my interest. So I put in a request. I didn’t actually read that it was a novel in verse.
I’m not a fan of novels in verse. I’ve never read one, the concept just holds no interest to me. While this was certainly a quick read, I read most of it during my lunch hour and finished it off at home, probably under two hours reading time in all. I can’t say I was blown away by the telling of a novel in verse. I find it distracting and annoying.
I can’t say I liked the story that much either. It’s a UK based novel, set in London. I found the main character Jess very hard to have much sympathy for. Which makes me feel horrible because she comes from a really awful home situation. Very passive mother who has an absolute asshole of an abusive boyfriend who beats her and rules with an iron fist of fear and intimidation.
It’s downright scary to read about. Especially must be awful for Jess who clearly loves her mum but can’t do anything about it. Jess has a definite attitude problem and potty mouth, clearly puts a tough girl act on and has some bitchy tough girl friends. It’s not that I had no empathy for Jess, there were times when I felt terrible for what she was going through. Given her circumstances, her attitude is not at all surprising. But I just didn’t like her.
Jess finds herself arrested for shoplifting. Instead of juvenile detention she gets a community service sentence, clearing up trash in her local park.
The saving grace of this book was Nicu. I loved Nicu to pieces. He made reading this whole book worthwhile. Nicu’s family are Polish immigrants, looking to make money in the UK. They want to make some decent cash to take back home to their village to give Nicu a good start with a new wife, arranged by his parents and the parents of a girl from their village. Nicu gets no say in this. He has no interest in getting married at all.
He’s a decent boy, who in a stupid moment tried shop lifting and got caught. Because he’s an immigrant and because he doesn’t speak very good English, he gets caught and in trouble, but he’s given the same community service option given to Jess. Nicu seems like a nice guy who generally tries to do the right thing. He just caved under pressure of a future he has no desire for and no options to really do something for himself. He made a bad decision and there were consequences for his action. Which he understands and takes responsibility for, by doing what is required of him. Unfortunately, this means attending English school too.
He meets Jess at the same community service programme. They have nothing to say to each other at first, but notice each other. And soon find ways of talking to each other. They also both go to the same school and of course notice each other there as well. Jess appears to be embarrassed to be seen talking to Nicu. Her friends are the popular kids, and they are bullies. Nicu suffers terrible bullying, and while Jess doesn’t take part in the name calling and pranks, she doesn’t exactly do anything to stop it either.
But Nicu has such a heart wrenching tone of voice, it’s solid and dependable, and as he struggles to cope with his situation he finds Jess to be his reason for going on. As far as he’s concerned the sun rises and sets on her. He’s completely infatuated. And she eventually starts to thaw, little pieces of her tough girl personality slipping aside as Nicu breaks through her layers of protection and starts to get to know a whole different side of Jess.
Of course given their respective parental situations, nothing is easy going. Jess’s friends don’t make I any easier, and neither do the boy bullies in their class. One bad decision leads to another and Nicu and Jess find themselves with a horrible choice to make.
While the novel certainly hit some rough emotional notes,(show spoiler)
I can’t say I will be reading another novel in verse any time soon. If either of the two authors wrote a contemporary YA that wasn’t in verse, I would be interested. This novel really didn’t work for me.
Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & AUS) for approving my request to view the title.