The Year of The Rat by Clare Furniss | Review

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I picked this book up a couple of months ago pretty much because of the gorgeous cover and the intriguing premise. I’d heard next to nothing about this book, and to be honest, my expectations weren’t that high. But I ended up enjoying this a load more than I thought I would. The writing style was fabulous and I really felt all of the strong emotions that the main character, Pearl, was going through. I really liked that romance wasn’t the main focus and I although I’m a sucker for romance, I felt like the romance stopped where it should have and with the love story taking a back-seat it allowed for the main storyline to come through. I really liked the characters and I really connected with them and the scenarios that they were going through.

In this story we follow fifteen-year-old Pearl whose mum dies suddenly after giving birth to her premature baby sister, Rose. To Pearl, Rose is the Rat – the little Rat who destroyed everything, even ruined the wonderful relationship that Pearl had with her stepfather, the Rat’s biological father. Mum, though… Mum’s dead but she can’t seem to leave. She keeps visiting Pearl. Smoking, cursing, guiding. Asking Pearl how the Rat is, whether she wants to babysit her, what she ate for dinner. Pearl is trying to move on from the tragedy that changed her life, but the Rat is a constant reminder of what she had before, what she lost and what life is like now. Can Pearl stop blaming everyone and everything for what happened and finally start living her life again?

One of the main things that I loved about this book was Pearl. She was such a relatable and realistic character and everything that she was feeling really hit home to me. Her emotions were so strong and powerful, they really made me empathize for her and the traumatic situation that she was in. I loved Pearl’s mother, Stella, and how bold and bright she was and I think she was a great mother figure for Pearl, which made her absence even more heart-breaking.

I really liked the conversations that Pearl had with her mother and it really showed Pearl’s grief. I’ve never experience true grief as I’ve been lucky enough not to have lost anyone close to me yet, but I felt like I had. I felt Pearl’s pain and anger and frustration and guilt and it was really heart-wrenching at times. I really felt for Alex, Pearl’s step-dad, as he was trying his best to keep the family together whilst dealing with his own grief. And the character of Pearl’s Grandmother was a fabulous addition because she added some conflict within the family, but also added another mother figure that Pearl could look up to – as well as being brutally blunt and honest.

I flew through this book in a matter of days because I enjoyed it so much. It wasn’t that it was action-packed or fast-paced per say, but Pearl’s voice was just so refreshing and entertaining to read. Amongst the grief and heart-ache was humour; Pearl was very blunt and sarcastic and Stella was so over-the-top and a great laugh. This really broke up all the deep emotions and also kept the realistic tone to the story. I loved the romance (although I pretty much love any romance) and I really liked how the romance was almost a development tool for Pearl as it forced her to deal with something other than her mother’s death and attempt to move on. Finn was a real sweetheart and I loved his relationship with his Grandmother (and Pearl’s next-door-neighbor) because it was so relatable and entertaining to read.

Overall, I enjoyed this book a heck of a lot more than I thought I would. It was really bittersweet and filled with themes like love, family and friendship. I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars and I can’t wait to see what Clare Furniss comes out with next.

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