The year of the rat by Claire Furniss
Simon & Schuster, 2014. ISBN 9781471121715.
(Age: 14+) Grief. Death and Loss. Parent-Child relationships. It was not the death of Pearl's mother in childbirth that is revealed in the opening chapter that brought me to tears, it was the pain of Pearl's grieving that led me to finish this book with tears running down my cheeks. Pearl has regular encounters with her dead mother in the year following the tragic death, and Pearl's fiercely independent and feisty nature, and the horror of the 'tipped' world that she needs to balance on, prevents her from moving forward. Her downward spiral is both understandable and yet heart-stirring. Everyone close to her is aching to help her, but her grief has created a solid barrier around her, a grief that is consuming and self-destructive. Her distant relationship with the baby sister that she can't connect to is a symptom of her withdrawal from the world of love and care that is calling, if only she was able to listen. This is definitely a book needing the company of a box of tissues. (Although I did read this when away from work with a terrible cold, so perhaps my reactions were somewhat illness impacted!) The female relationships in this story are interesting, and particularly those across the generations; the responses of a grieving teen are neither polite nor trite (although bad language is rare); and the role of 'loving father/step-father' is also explored in an interesting way. A little tincture of romance is also added for the benefit of the teenage market. This will appeal to teenagers who enjoyed The fault in our stars. This is probably not a good book for someone battling with their own grief journey, although they would understand the emotions.
Target audience: 14+ (predominantly female). Some maturity required because of the theme.