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No and Me [Kindle Edition]

Delphine de Vigan
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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"Ask the Dark"
Gripping and powerful, this masterful debut novel comes to vivid life through the unique voice of a hero as unlikely as he is unforgettable. Hardcover | Kindle

Book Description

Parisian teenager Lou has an IQ of 160, OCD tendencies, and a mother who has suffered from depression for years. But Lou is about to change her life-and that of her parents-all because of a school project about homeless teens. While doing research, Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets. As their friendship grows, Lou bravely asks her parents if No can live with them, and is astonished when they agree. No's presence forces Lou's family to come to terms with a secret tragedy. But can this shaky, newfound family continue to live together when No's own past comes back to haunt her?

Winner of the prestigious Booksellers' Prize in France, No and Me is a timely and thought-provoking novel about homelessness that has far-reaching appeal.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Winner of the 2008 Prix de Libraries (Booksellers’ Prize), this moving French import begins when 13-year-old Lou, a ferociously shy and intelligent Parisian, declares an unusual class project: “I’m going to follow the journey of a homeless girl.” Her teacher’s enthusiasm forces Lou to follow her idea through, and in a train station she meets 18-year-old No. Lou feels like an outsider even at home, where “sadness clings to the walls” after her baby sister’s sudden death and her mother’s subsequent breakdown. With No she finds a surprising, true friendship, and she convinces her parents to allow No to move in. Writing in Lou’s strong, convincing voice, de Vigan poses the largest existential questions about meaning, purpose, and the possibilities and limits of saving another life. Subtle, authentic details; memorable characters (including Lou’s older friend, Lucas); and realistic ambiguities in each scene ground the story’s weighty themes, and teens will easily recognize Lou’s fragile shifts between heartbreak, bitter disillusionment, and quiet, miraculous hope. Grades 8-11. --Gillian Engberg


"Well-structured, with moments of tenderness and truth about family and home, inadequate parents and neglected children, No and Me is honest (as revealing and insightful about Lou and home life as it is about No and homelessness) but also at least partially reassuring. Lou's 'large-scale experiment against fate' might not go quite according to plan, but de Vigan shows that things really can change, albeit not always in the ways we've anticipated, and not always in ways we can control."
The Independent (UK)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children October 19, 2010
As an intellectually gifted and socially withdrawn teenager, Lou Bertignac filled her time by making observations about other people, conducting experiments, and keeping her mind occupied with problems. These traits worked together in a serendipitous way when she decided to focus on homelessness for a class presentation and interview a homeless girl she had observed at the train station.

Nolwenn, No for short, did not say much at first, but over the course of numerous meetings at the station and in cafés she disclosed that she was always on the move and slept in assorted locations, including a friend's place, shelters, a tent, and random homes of people she met. No smoked and drank too much, did not trust anyone, and slept lightly in fear of having her belongings stolen. She was malnourished, dirty, cold, bruised, and disheveled.

No taught Lou that homeless women were not crazy, not tramps; they had lost their jobs, run away, and had been abused and thrown out. Lou took these lessons to heart, wondering how society could send rockets into space but let people suffer on the streets. Lou would not give up on No, so she asked her parents if No could live with them in hopes that this simple act of kindness could overcome the power of the streets.

This compelling novel, translated from French, provides an eye-opening description of the causes and pervasiveness of homelessness as well as the effectiveness of the steps that cities such as Paris have taken to address the problem. Thoroughly entwined is a beautifully written story that shines an entirely different light on the bonds of family and friendship.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `There's this invisible city within the city.' September 8, 2011
Lou Bertignac is a very clever teenager. Lou has an IQ of 160, and is two years ahead of her age group at school in Paris. It's not easy being thirteen anyway, but when your peer group is two years older and things are not great at home, life is even more challenging. Lou's parents are distracted: her mother has been severely depressed since the death of Lou's baby sister Chloe, and her father is preoccupied and worried. Lou's best friend at school is Lucas, a teenager who is older that the rest of the class, a rebel who is repeating the year and is, like Lou, an outsider. Lou spends her spare time developing theories about how the world works and conducting scientific tests: this keeps her busy and takes her mind off the inexorable sadness in her home.

`That's the problem - our lives have stopped and the world keeps going round.'

Lou has to give a presentation to her class and, under pressure to nominate a topic, decides to do a project on the homeless. She hopes to be able to interview a homeless girl that she has seen at the railway station. And so we meet Nolween (No) an eighteen year old who has been homeless for some time. No is pretty, despite being dirty and missing a tooth, and is Lou's first real social contact outside of home and school. At the end of Lou's project, she is desperate not to lose contact with No. She asks her parents if No can move into their apartment, at least for a while. Lou's parents agree, and No's moving in becomes a very positive step for the Bertignac family, especially for Lou's mother. At first, it seems to be a good thing for No as well, but No's life cannot be transformed so easily.

While Lucas joins forces with Lou to try to rescue No, he is experienced enough to know that success is not guaranteed.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting, Worthwhile Read April 5, 2011
Lou is a precocious, introverted teen with an IQ of 160 living in Paris. Her mother is in a deep depression since the crib death of a younger sibling and her father is just trying to keep the family together. Lou attends school with much older teens and feels lost and out of place. When she begins to research a paper on the homeless she meets Nolween (No), an 18 year old homeless teen who has been neglected most of her life and is lost and alone. Eventually No moves in with Lou and her parents but her alcohol and drug use cannot be cured with their kindness.

The book explores the relationship between these two unlikely friends and how each affects the others lives. One particular quote also shows how the book addresses the problem of homelessness:

"We can send supersonic planes and rockets into space, and identify a criminal from a hair or a tiny flake of skin, and grow a tomato we can keep in the fridge for three weeks without getting a wrinkle, and store millions of pieces of information on a tiny chip. Yet we're capable of letting people die in the street" (p. 72).

This is a harsh look at life on the street interspersed with moments of tenderness. The journey Lou and No go on to explore the world around them felt real and was well done, Their characters were well developed and grew throughout the book. I did feel that the ending was abrupt, but really there is no easy solution to the problem of homelessness, so maybe I was just hoping for a different ending. This book is a good look at how people are changed by those around them, and was an enjoyable if somewhat depressing read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat Disconcerting September 9, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This novel will disappoint those who believe that homelessness is a temporary condition that can be solved with good intentions and homeless shelters, but for those that know the reality of homelessness and its far-reaching effects, this story is a decent depiction of one girl and the emotions she experiences as she attempts to help one person navigate through life without a permanent address or home life. It also somewhat examines the different lifestyles of young adults in an upscale neighborhood and private educational system, with a somewhat unrealistic selection of characters to depict such lives--though this could be explained by the author wanting to emphasize the seemingly incongruous unrecognized personal shortcomings of the privileged in comparison to the unrecognized personal strengths of the homeless. While the story is set in France, the situation could be found in almost any large city in any global location. A good attempt to provide insight into the inequities of the world, the author tells a story that will pique the interest of readers who want to begin to understand the mechanisms and factors that influence social stratas and apparent inequities.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good book for highschool age.
Published 2 days ago by Barbara Zapata
3.0 out of 5 stars WHAT'S THE POINT?
I think I learned a lot and then again at the end I wondered what the book was about. There are young folks with almost no supervision - one trying to save a street person. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Joan E. Hartsough
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read.
This story discusses the friendship that is formed between a teenage girl and a homeless woman. The girl (Lou) initially begins talking to the homeless 18 year old, No, to gather... Read more
Published 28 days ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done
The writer cleverly pulled out the emotions of a teenage girl with a Asberger's syndrome and how she was able to connect with needs of those around her who had mental issues of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by V Jeff
5.0 out of 5 stars Could have been true
A good read with real people. It also presents a problem but not pat answer. This was not a book we wanted to put down.
Published 1 month ago by D. Reginald Endsley
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet read
This was an extremely delightful read. Bittersweet and unpredictable.
Published 2 months ago by Deborah Jorgensen
4.0 out of 5 stars lyrical and beautiful
this is a warm hearting, heart breaking, lyrical book that captures the human nature so beautifully. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Sharon L
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good book!
Published 7 months ago by Rae Ramsey
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable easy read
Enjoyed the book - but towards the end it became a bit tedious and predictable. Wished it had ended better
Published 7 months ago by alds
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story .
Written from the perspective of a teenage girl who befriends a homeless young girl. Fast and easy read. I enjoyed it.
Published 10 months ago by linda bentz
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