Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: April 24th, 2014
I always thought you'd know, somehow, if something terrible was going to happen. I thought you'd sense it, like when the air goes damp and heavy before a storm and you know you'd better hide yourself away somewhere safe until it all blows over. But it turns out it's not like that at all. There's no scary music playing in the background like in films. No warning signs. Not even a lonely magpie. One for sorrow, Mum used to say. Quick, look for another. The world can tip at any moment … a fact that fifteen-year-old Pearl is all too aware of when her mum dies after giving birth to her baby sister. Told across the year following her mother's death, Pearl's story is full of bittersweet humour and heartbreaking honesty about how you deal with grief that cuts you to the bone, as she tries not only to come to terms with losing her mum, but also the fact that her sister - The Rat - is a constant reminder of why her mum is no longer around…
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.