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The Year of the Rat Hardcover – November 4, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Fifteen-year-old Pearl is left with a broken stepfather, a newborn sister, and grief that is nearly too much to bear after her mother dies during childbirth. Shocked into numbness, she finds herself lashing out at her family and friends. Worst of all, she can't stand her sister, (whom she disdainfully labels The Rat), a constant reminder that her mother is gone. Except her mother isn't gone—feisty, fabulous Stella crops up unexpectedly, equally ready with advice and admonishment from beyond the grave. The premise of the novel is intriguing; though bleak, Furniss buoys heavy emotional scenes with elements of wit and humor. Pearl is surrounded by a strong cast of supporting characters, including elderly neighbor Dulcie, loyal best friend Molly, and snooty yet loving Nan. However, none of them are granted the depth and exposition that could have made this a more engaging read. Some of Pearl's increasingly self-destructive behavior, such as her isolation and binge drinking, also warrants further attention, and while the ambiguity of her mother's "presence" (is she real, a ghost, or perhaps a figment of Pearl's struggle to accept this extremely traumatic event?) leaves room for interpretation, it also leaves an ending that feels somewhat incomplete. This novel glosses over some grittier elements of its plot, but is overall a touching, well-written depiction of adolescence and the pervasive, perplexing nature of loss.—Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal
Clare Furniss is a “strong new voice in Young Adult Fiction." (The Guardian)
“Beautifully written with a dry sense of humor.” (Stylist Magazine)
“Crisply told…there's a lot of heartbreak in Clare Furniss's book, but the story is lightened by humorous touches.” (The Telegraph)
“The Year of The Rat is a sensitive, beautifully written book.” (Meg Rosoff, author of HOW I LIVE NOW)
“A touching, well-written depiction of adolescence and the pervasive, perplexing nature of loss.” (School Library Journal)
Top customer reviews
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I admit, though, the title threw me. There is nothing Chinese about this book. Not even Chinese food. Which is a pity. The title is perfectly clear once you get reading, but it does feel misleading to me.
It is also extremely depressing. It's about grief! Trust me when I say, there are books about crying and then there are books that make you cry and then there's just crying. I AM CRYING, OKAY? So much pain. I've read a lot of books that deal with the topic of grief. Pearl loses her mother, really unexpectedly, and the book is about her journey through grief. No bandaids. No cuddles to stop the pain. There is just pain pain pain, and it's realistic. It felt so real and so heartbreaking. I'm absolutely drained, because I just experienced it all with Pearl.
That's good writing, okay? Let's not mince words: this book is excellently written. See? I'm using "excellently" because this book is also British. Very Brisith. (Which I love, because it smells a little bit like home. Except for all the tea drinking.) Are you in pain? Tea. Are you sad? Tea. Are you a stranger who knocked on my front door? Tea.
Pearl is a really icy character. She had the tendency to be annoying, but I was too busy being in her shoes and feeling her pain to be ticked off. She's quite cruel, really, in her pain. And seeing her thaw from the frost seems like it's never goooing to haaaappen. Smite me. I've never had a close family member or friend die, so I can't possibly know what it's like -- BUT, reading this? It really understood Pearl. I understood her cruelty. I understood her hate. And then this quote:
"He said maybe sometimes, when people lose someone they love, it's like they die too. It's like perhaps that's the only way they can stay close to the person who's gone. They stop living."
I'm done. Grab a mop for my tears, okay?
Despite being about dead people, this book is surprisingly funny. The humour is dry and snarky, bit of gallows humour here and there. Fabulous.
There's also a lot of family relationships in here, which, as you might now, I adore. Smushy romance is well and good, but there are other kinds of relationships and I get so excited when YA explores them! While there's a bit of a Thing happening between the neighbour's grandson, Finn, and Pearl, the book never relaly "goes there". This book is about Pearl and her family: her grandma, her step-dead, her dead mother, and the little baby who her mother died having. Family isn't loving and happiness. It's support when you're drowning. I love that.
You have to read this. I want you to feel the pain that I am feeling, basically. It's sad and funny (which is incredibly hard to pull off). But, spoiler: there is no Chinese food. (I'm still confused as to why there's no Chinese food.)
A tale of loss, jealousy and self-discovery, The Year of the Rat is a comfortably paced, medium length read. The focus of this book is Pearl's journey through grief and severe hatred to finding herself, and ultimately, healing.
Although Pearl's character is well crafted and fleshed out, I couldn't really identify with her. I understood her grief as well as her natural feelings of blame towards her sister and even her step-father. However, I couldn't understand how she could disintegrate to the degree where she dragged her stepdad as well as her grandmother down with her, and alienated her best friend into the bargain.
Fortunately she has Finn and his grandmother who seem to be able to look past her problems and give her the support and friendship she needs. Finn's character isn't very pronounced in this book, yet, he seems to be the kind of quiet, supportive person a troubled girl like Pearl might need.
Filled with touches of typically British humor, The Year of the Rat is a pleasant, relaxing read with a couple of life lessons and a wealth of depth. (Ellen Fritz)