The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss

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The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: A moving portrayal of grief which is also surprisingly funny at many times, this is a very strong debut for Clare Furniss.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1471120275

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Longlisted for the 2015 CILIP Carnegie Medal

Pearl couldn’t imagine life without her mother, but now she’s forced to face up to it. After her mum passes away giving birth to a new baby, Pearl is left devastated – and her new sister, who she calls the Rat, is a constant painful reminder. Can she come to terms with her grief? And has her mother really gone completely, or does she keep seeing her?

This somehow managed to take me by surprise despite the fact that I initially managed to predict what would happen fairly perfectly – while the ending wasn’t unexpected, the pacing to get there definitely was. It felt like a painfully realistic portrayal of loss and I was glued to this, sympathising with Pearl as she pushed her friends and family away in her desolation at her mother’s death. I thought the relationship between Pearl and best friend Molly, who is desperate to help her but can’t quite break through the hard shell Pearl puts up around herself, was especially well-portrayed. As for Pearl herself, she’s a wonderful main character. There were times when I felt annoyed with her but I always thought she was sympathetic, not just because of the tragedy that had occurred but because she was trying to cope with it in her own way. Even when she was unsuccessful at times, and did things I didn’t like, I wanted her to learn to cope better and to start to find some comfort.

It’s also surprisingly funny, given the subject matter, with the scenes between Pearl and her mother, who sometimes appears to her, being the highlights from this aspect. Their relationship is wonderfully well-written, with the sixteen-year-old desperate to see her mother but at times furious with her for various reasons.

Despite this humour, as you’d expect, it’s a seriously emotional read. I thought at one point I’d get through it without crying (which is becoming rather rare for this type of book) but lost control with just a few pages to go as the ending hit hard.

A really strong debut; I definitely look forward to seeing more from Clare Furniss.

I think fans of difficult main characters will really like another upcoming debut, Tease by Amanda Maciel.

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Buy The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss at


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