Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Title: The Year of the Rat
Author: Clare Furniss
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 24, 2014
Genres: YA, Contemporary
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 4/5


The world can tip at any moment… a fact that fifteen-year-old Pearl is all too aware of when her mum 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.

Mum, though… Mum’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 humour 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 mum is no longer around.


Although The Year of the Rat is not the kind of book that would normally make it onto my reading menu, it turned out to be a relaxing, often-humorous book with lots of depth. When Pearl's mother dies, leaving a newborn baby behind, Pearl is devastated. She decides to hate her sister, Rose, aka The Rat, as well as her step-father, and blame both of them for her mother's death. The only thing that gets her through that first year after her mother's death seems to be her mother's ghost.

A tale of loss, jealousy and self-discovery, The Year of the Rat is a comfortably paced, medium length read. The focus of this book is Pearl's journey through grief and severe hatred to finding herself, and ultimately, healing.

Although Pearl's character is well crafted and fleshed out, I couldn't really identify with her. I understood her grief as well as her natural feelings of blame towards her sister and even her step-father. However, I couldn't understand how she could disintegrate to the degree where she dragged her stepdad as well as her grandmother down with her, and alienated her best friend into the bargain.

Fortunately she has Finn and his grandmother who seem to be able to look past her problems and give her the support and friendship she needs. Finn's character isn't very pronounced in this book, yet, he seems to be the kind of quiet, supportive person a troubled girl like Pearl might need.

Filled with touches of typically British humor, The Year of the Rat is a pleasant, relaxing read with a couple of life lessons and a wealth of depth.

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Furniss grew up in London, and moved to Birmingham in her teens. After brief stints as a waitress, a shop assistant, and working at the Shakespeare Centre Library in Stratford-upon-Avon, she studied at Cambridge and Aberdeen. She went on to work in media relations for the homelessness charity Shelter and spent several years as a press officer for the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. She now lives in Bath.

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