The Year of the Rat

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review

This is the story of a year in the life of 16-year-old Pearl, as she struggles to face up to the reality of her mum's death and the arrival of her new baby sister, who she names 'the Rat'. New babies are usually a joy, but for Pearl, the Rat is simply a reminder of why her mum is no longer there. No one else seems to be able to understand Pearl's grief: her dad is wrapped up in the new baby, her friends can't possibly comprehend how she feels, and as for her gran, she never even approved of Pearl's mum in the first place. Angry, frustrated and horribly alone, Pearl tries to make sense of her loss - and then an unexpected visitor turns up.

This unflinching portrait of a teenage girl dealing with the death of a parent is an enormously compelling read. With complex characters, and a distinctive narrator in Pearl, it is a carefully-balanced blend of raw emotion and wry humour. Moving, thought-provoking and bittersweet, The Year of the Rat is an ultimately uplifting novel, which has as much  to offer adult readers, as it does teens themselves. A hugely impressive debut novel, it will leave readers eager to find out what's next from Clare Furniss.

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