An incredibly poignant and beautiful story about two lonely girls mutual friendship. Not since ‘Zoo Station, The Story of Christiane F.’ have I been so emotionally involved, and even though the story is incredible sad, it wasn’t devastating, but actually life-affirming in a very beautiful way.

by Peter

Title:

‘No and Me’

Original title:

‘No et Moi’ (French)

Author:

Delphine de Vigan

Pages:

246

Reading Level:

Advanced Beginner

First Published:

2007

Publisher, this copy:

Bloomsbury

Feelings Thermometer:






Lou Bertignac is a thirteen year old french girl who is significantly brighter than all her peers. In fact, she is so smart that she has skipped two grades and now go to classes with the schools fifteen year olds. But being superior by intelligence is far from being superior socially, and when it comes to puberty, physically Lou is even more behind her classmates

Hate to get attention

In her daily life, Lou struggles with the attention she gets because she is smarter. Over time her social anxiety has developed into a serious disorder, and she gets proper panic attacks when her old and cynical teacher, Monsieur Marin, without empathy drags her into painful situations in front of all the other students.

Lou really lives a hard and lonely life, but one day, when she in her loneliness hangs out at the station Gare d’Austerlitz, an eightteen year old homeless girl, No, asks Lou for a loosey. Lou doesn’t smoke but gives the girl her entire new pack of gum. Slowly the two girls hit it off, even though Lou never likes to talk to strangers, but with No she feels comfortable for the first time.

Project about homeless youths

Next day in school, the students are going to write an important paper where they can choose the subject themselves. Lou has already decided; she tells that she’s going to write about homeless youths, and that she already knows a girl she can interview.

No matter how much Lou’s negative thoughts and social anxiety tries to hold her back, she knows that she has to seek out No again and try to become friends with her.

The friendship between two outsiders

‘No and Me’ is an incredibly beautiful story about two lonely girls mutual friendship. It was refreshing to read a French novel set in Paris, in which I could experience the French school system and the French culture in Lou’s home, and the subjects felt very important.

It’s not just about homeless youths, but we get an explanation of why it happens. Also, the part about Lou’s sister who died, a fact that leaves a heavy grief in the family home and in Lou’s parents, becomes very important in the story, and it goes right into your heart, because Delphine de Vigan doesn’t write in a moralizing tone. She just shows us how things are, and then it is for ourselves to make opinions.

Excerpt from ‘No and Me’

No is sitting on the ground, leaning against a post. She’s put an empty tuna can in front of her feet with a few coins in it. I havn’t checked the train times on the departure board. I’ve gone straight towards the platform, to the place where she first spoke to me. I’m walking towards the decisively. As I get nearer, I’m suddenly afraid she won’t remember me.
‘Hi.’
‘Why, it’s Lou Bertignac.’
She says it in a snotty voice, the kind they use in comedy sketches or adverts to imitate people who’re a bit snobby. I almost turn round, but I’ve repeated to myself what I’m planning to say enought times and I don’t want to give up.
‘I thought we could go for a hot chocolate … or something else … if you like. My treat.’
She jumps up, grabbing her canvas bag, and mutters that she can’t leave all her stuff there, pointing with her chin at a small suitcase on wheel and two plastic bags stuffed full of things. I pick up the two plastic bags, leaving the case to her, and hear her say thank you behind me. Her voice sounds less confident than the first time. I feel proud of having done this, to be leading the way, but I’m dead scared at the thought of sitting across a table from her.

Also heartwarming and fun

Throughout the story, I became very fond of Lou, and like her I would do almost about anything to help No out, too. I must admit that I also cried a lot, but in a thankful way, really appreciating that I could get so close to these people and their true feelings.

The really good thing about books that makes you cry is that they aren’t just sad. They are also heartwarming and fun as a contrast to the sad parts. And the things that made me smile in ‘No and Me’ were that Lou almost has some autistic symptoms.

She can’t calm down before she has completed several very important experiments in the little home. Everything in the household has to be weighed and measured, and one day it can be very important to Lou to investigate if cocoa powder is absorbed faster in milk than instant coffee powder is absorbed in boiling water.

It’s so sweet and funny when both Lou’s father and No, without questions volunteer and help Lou out with her important tasks, and it made ‘No and Me’ so unique and very special, that it is a novel I will never forget.