I feel bad that I didn’t like The Year of the Rat more than I did. The thing that prevented this book from being a DNF was the author’s writing. It flowed really well and managed to be thoughtful without being flowery and gripping without being overly dramatic. I know I’ve only given this book 2.5 stars, but I would still be interested in reading other work by Clare Furniss, based on her writing alone.
The plot was paced quite well over the course of the year after Stella’s death, but the main plot points consisted of Pearl being mean to everyone who tried to help her. There was a little bit of romance but it seemed to have been included because someone turned to the author and said, ‘You’re writing a YA novel? Then you have to have romance in it. It’s the LAW!’ I have no idea why he stuck around, because Pearl was just nothing but mean to him.
So. Pearl. Pearl wasn’t a very sympathetic character and that was what really affected my enjoyment of the book. She was just so … whiny.
ARGH! *Clamps hands over ears* I know! I know! She’s just lost her mum! You’re entitled to be upset. God, you’re entitled to be tearing up the walls with grief, and I feel a horrible person for even bringing this up, but to me she didn’t sound like she was grieving, she just sounded narky. She didn’t sound sad, she didn’t sound angry, or grief-stricken or disbelieving or in denial. She just sounded like a pissed-off, sulky teenager, who mistakenly thinks the world owes her something.
Pearl was completely oblivious to what her dad might be going through or to the fact that her baby sister was going to grow up without a mum and I really didn’t like her very much. The overwhelming impression I got was that when her mum was alive, Pearl had been spoilt and was used to being an only child and that now her mum was dead she was furious at the spotlight being shifted from her.
Seriously, even the scene near the end of the book where Pearl decides to run away from home (with loads of luggage), she doesn’t just slip out into the night like you do if you really mean it; she flounces into the living room and announces, ‘Right. I’m going. Bye.’ And then gets nasty when initially no one believes her and then tell her some home truths.
Mind you, her mum sounded like a right piece of work as well, so maybe Pearl took after her? Her mum was, in gaming terms, a vague NPC. Usually elves or mad people (or, in this case, a ghost) no one really knows why they’re there because they do nothing to move the story along and insist on talking in riddles and half-truths. I was never really sure whether she was a figment of Pearl’s grief or if she was actually a ghost, but she didn’t really seem to add anything, so I wasn’t bothered either way.
I’ll tell you who I did like, though, and that was Pearl’s granny. She completely calls Pearl out on all her selfish ways and seems to realise that when you’re dealing with a spoilt, immature child, the best thing is to pay them very little notice. In places it was really only Granny who rescued this book for me because she made me think that maybe the author didn’t really think that Pearl’s attitude was an acceptable
All in all this was an okay read, but it was only okay. I think if Pearl had been a bit less annoying it would have been quite a startling book, but as it was she was too irritating for me to care about her.