Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan are two authors whose books have blown me away. They are also both award-winning authors, with Sarah Crossan’s One winning the Carnegie Medal and Brian Conaghan’s The Bombs That Brought Us Together winning the Costa Award. When I first heard that they were joining forces to write a verse novel I knew it was going to be an amazing read. We Come Apart is everything I hoped it would be and more.
Jess would never have looked twice at Nicu if her friends hadn’t left her in the lurch. Nicu is all big eyes and ill-fitting clothes, eager as a puppy, even when they’re picking up litter in the park for community service. He’s so not her type. Appearances matter to Jess. She’s got a lot to hide.
Nicu thinks Jess is beautiful. His dad brought Nicu and his mum here for a better life, but now all they talk about is going back home to find Nicu a wife. The last thing Nicu wants is to get married. He wants to get educated, do better, stay here in England. But his dad’s fists are the most powerful force in Nicu’s life, and in the end, he’ll have to do what his dad wants.
As Nicu and Jess get closer, their secrets come to the surface like bruises. The only safe place they have is with each other. But they can’t be together, forever, and stay safe – can they?
We Come Apart is an unforgettable read that tore me apart and put me back together again. The characters voices are so genuine that you really feel for them. I loved that the story was told in verse because it just works so well with this story. The verse brings out the raw emotions of the characters.
Each of the authors writes from a different point of view. Sarah Crossan writes as Jess, a girl who is trying to protect herself from her physically abusive stepfather. She hates her so-called friends but does what she needs to fit in. She got caught shoplifting and gets sent to the reparation scheme where youth offenders have to pick up rubbish and learn how to be useful members of society. It’s in the reparation scheme that she meets Nicu, a Romanian guy who has come to England with his family to earn money for his marriage. His parents are going to marry him off to a Romanian bride but he wants nothing to do with it. When he meets Jess he falls for her and knows that he can’t ever marry someone he doesn’t know.
The thing I liked the most about We Come Apart is that it’s a very real story. There’s no happy ending, where Jess and Nicu fall madly in love and desperately in love. It’s really a story of how two people find each other at the right time and are there to help each other get through the rough patches. It takes quite some time for Jess to see the good guy beneath the surface of Nicu and she certainly needs some convincing.
I really loved the ending because it wasn’t forced. You know things aren’t going to be all sunshine and rainbows but they’ll be OK.
I will carry Jess and Nicu around in my head and hear for quite some time. Grab We Come Apart and fall in love with these amazing characters too.
Like many of the books on my shelves The Bombs That Brought Us Together has been sitting on my shelf for a while just waiting for the chance for me to pick it up. I’ve spent the last month reading through my TBR pile and this book shot straight to the top when I heard that it had won the Costa Book Award. I’m so glad that I finally got around to reading it because it is a brilliant book.
Fourteen-year-old Charlie Law has lived in Little Town, on the border with Old Country, all his life. He knows the rules: no going out after dark; no drinking; no litter; no fighting. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of the people who run Little Town. When he meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, the rules start to get broken. Then the bombs come, and the soldiers from Old Country, and Little Town changes for ever.
Sometimes, to keep the people you love safe, you have to do bad things. As Little Town’s rules crumble, Charlie is sucked into a dangerous game. There’s a gun, and a bad man, and his closest friend, and his dearest enemy.
Charlie Law wants to keep everyone happy, even if it kills him. And maybe it will…
The Bombs That Brought Us Together is an atmospheric, tense, utterly unique read that made me smile one minute and bite my nails the next. I was absolutely captivated by this story and the characters that Brian has brought to life. It is clear to see why this book won the Costa Book Award.
Brian Conaghan portrays life in a war-zone and a time of unrest with honesty and with heart. You see what the day-to-day reality is for Charlie, with rationing, curfews and beatings, and you see the fear that his parents live with. Charlie tells us about the reality of life after the bombs when he shares his list of things he did before the bombs came, including ‘got really bored because Little Town had a lack of teenage things to do.’ You also see what life is like for refugees like Pav, those people that are forced out of the country and the lives that they knew into a place where they are hated and made to do horrible jobs just to survive. Brian also shows us the friendship and hope that exists too, even with everything else that is happening.
The way in which Brian has portrayed the war between Little Town and Old Country is brilliant. The conflict between Little Town and Old Country bears striking similarities to wars all over the world. There are rebels that have taken Little Town as their own and they run the place as they see fit, but Old Country wants to take Little Town back and so they invade with their bombs and their soldiers. Pav and his family are refugees from Old Country who are now living in Little Town and they are persecuted, especially when the Old Country troops invade. Little Town is run by The Big Man and his Rascals. It is when Charlie and Pav get themselves involved with The Big Man that the real trouble starts.
It was Charlie’s voice that grabbed me from the first page and made me want to keep reading. As the story is narrated by Charlie you really get inside his head and go through all of his dilemmas and the events of the story right with him. You feel him changing as the story progresses and hope that he is going to make the right choices. You know how much he wants to protect his family and Pav and that he’ll do whatever it takes to keep everyone safe. Things get especially tense towards the end of the book and I wasn’t sure how it was going to end.
The Bombs That Brought Us Together is one of those stories that I’m still thinking about days after finishing it. Charlie and Pav will stay with me and I’ll wonder what they are getting up to. I loved Brian’s writing so much that I want to go and hunt down his first book, When Mr Dog Bites, and I’m eagerly awaiting his next book (with Sarah Crossan) called We Come Apart.
Recommended for 13+ (definitely a YA read).