Pearl’s life is turned upside down when her pregnant mother dies, and she has to live with a constant reminder: her little sister, Rose, or ‘The Rat’ as she’s less fondly known. Similar in start-up plot to the likes of Paige Toon’s The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson, this book sticks to the journey of dealing with grief through your teenage years, without a fantastical twist.
Pearl lashes out at everyone, but it’s her dad and best friend Molly who take the hardest hits. Her dad – though not by birth – is blamed for wanting a baby, it’s his fault for her mother dying. Molly sees her friend wither away into a mere ghost of herself, as Pearl gives up on everything.
It is generally believable, and at times uncomfortable to read. It’s a horrible situation to picture, and that realistic/uncomfortable line is trodden carefully in Pearl’s view of Rose, using her as a beacon for the anger and hate she’s so far been unable to express in her mother’s passing.
Pearl herself goes a bit beyond the line of being wholly sympathetic to her, with her nastiness overstepping itself at times with people like Finn. I guess, though, constant and unbiased lashing out is all part of the process.
The Year of the Rat begins with tragedy, and takes you on a year of ups and downs, and the at times horrid reality that calls itself life.
Pub: 24th April 2014 | Simon and Schuster UK