No and Me isn't actually a new book, but it's new in America. It was written in 2005, but it has now been translated from the French by George Miller and will be available this month.
Lou is only 13, but already she's in high school. Lou feels apart from almost everyone else in her class because she so young, and because she's always thinking. Her thoughts are never quiet. For a class presentation, Lou decides to look at the topic of homelessness. She will follow the journey of a homeless girl, and how she ended up on the street.
Lou finds No, who is 18 and has been homeless for some time. Sometimes No feels like talking, sometimes she doesn't, but Lou is fascinated by her. When she's done with her presentation, she's afraid she'll never see No again, and if fact No does disappear for a time. When Lou finds her again, she invites No to come and live with her, convinced that all No needs to straighten out her life is an address and regular meals. But homelessness isn't quite so straightforward.
This was excellent. And a really nice translation. I've read translations that feel like translations, they're kind of awkward, and a lot of the words just don't seem right in the sentences. This flowed perfectly, and I think the author's voice came through as well.
I'm finding that many of the books I enjoy are written in first person and have a realistic voice. Or what I think is a realistic voice. I liked Lou's voice. I believed she was 13, and smart and confused and hurt and lost and really trying. I wanted her to be OK so much, and I wanted to protect her, and I wanted her to succeed, even though I knew she couldn't possibly.
Another reason I thought this book was excellent is that I can't remember reading another YA book that looks at homelessness. Are there other YA books that really look at homelessness? I can't think of any. And this book looked at it in such a straightforward, no punches way. And I appreciated that there was no happy ending, because it's hard to make things all better, and to say that all someone who lives on the street needs is a bath and a meal and then everything will fall into place is dishonest and doesn't allow us to look at the actual issues.
I think that No and Me has some strong opportunities for fitting into different places in a high school curriculum. In an economics class, or civics, or history, or looking at social justice.
No and Me is available in August.