Author: Clare Furniss
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Simon & Schuster Australia. Thank you!
Grappling with grief is hard enough without repeat visits from the deceased. Pearl deals with death, life, and family in this haunting, humorous, and poignant debut.Review by Nara
The world can tip at any moment…a fact that fifteen-year-old Pearl is all too aware of when her mom dies after giving birth to her baby sister, Rose.
Rose, who looks exactly like a baby rat, all pink, wrinkled, and writhing. This little Rat has destroyed everything, even ruined the wonderful relationship that Pearl had with her stepfather, the Rat’s biological father.
Mom, though…Mom’s dead but she can’t seem to leave. She keeps visiting Pearl. Smoking, cursing, guiding.
Told across the year following her mother’s death, Pearl’s story is full of bittersweet humor 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 mother, but also the fact that her sister—The Rat—is a constant reminder of why her mom is no longer around.
Following the death of her mother due to complications of pregnancy, Pearl is filled with bitterness towards her baby sister- who she sees to be the cause of her mother's death. She also feels like "The Rat" has driven a wedge between her and her stepfather, and as the reader watches, Pearl withdraws further and further into herself- away from her stepfather, away from her best friend, away from everyone except one "person". The ghost of her mother. Or what I assume to be a ghost anyway. It's not really clarified...
While this is a book about loss, and one girl coping with the grief of that loss, it's also permeated with humour and quirkiness. I loved the interactions between Pearl and her mother, and frequently smiled at her snarky remarks about The Rat. Sure, there were some feels-inducing sections throughout the novel, but I also think that the overall tone of the book is more so a bitter and witty darkness rather than an abyss of sorrow.
There was a small focus on the romance throughout the novel, and perhaps because this focus was so slight, I didn't feel like we were able to see much development of it. It was sort of like, yeah, they met a few times, and then BAM ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP. Which I suppose I didn't mind, because I probably would've disliked it had the romance been given a greater focus.
The Year of the Rat is a very short book, especially considering the font is huge. But I do think it was the perfect length for the story. The pacing was impeccable, with no sections dragging (as can often happen with contemporaries), and enough drive for me to really feel like barrelling through the book. A rather impressive debut by Furniss- I would certainly recommend it to fans of books with the ideal balance of light and dark.