This French bestseller comes aimed at both the adult and the YA markets, and it’s easy to see why. The book is written from the point of view of 13-year-old Lou, but as with Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident it’s a story on several levels, where not everything is entirely clear to the young heroine. I don’t think that Delphine de Vigan meant for No and Me to be an Aspie novel, and Lou probably isn’t on the autistic spectrum, but at the same time there is much here that will make the ASD reader feel right at home.
Lou is so intelligent she goes to school with 15-year-olds, but she doesn’t fit in. At home she has other problems with parents who don’t have time for her. There is a reason for this, but it doesn’t mean her life is any easier. She ends up doing a school project on the homeless after accidentally meeting No on the streets.
Eventually No comes to live with Lou and her parents, and things change. Lou also makes friends with the other ‘misfit’ in her form, Lucas, who is 17 and has spent years repeating classes instead of moving up. No changes the lives of these four people, and in some way they change hers too.
This is not a sunny, happy-ever-after story. I suspect it mirrors real life among the homeless pretty well, and it’s not encouraging reading. But at the same time it’s both fascinating, and partly uplifting. Readers over a certain age can probably see what Lou doesn’t, and we have to admire how fervently she tries to make No’s life better, and how she tries to incorporate her new friend/older-sister-figure into her family.
Lou could be a Jacqueline Wilson character with a French twist, plonked down in the middle of Melvin Burgess’s Junk. Just so you get the flavour of this marvellous story.