A bold YA novel full of humour and wisdom, by the Netherlands’ most socially engaged children’s author.
Seventeen-year-old Liesbeth thinks she is big and ugly. She wants to go to university, but her parents, who are getting divorced, say they can’t afford it. She has to take care of her autistic brother and sister, one of whom bites himself, while the other wipes poo on the walls. Liesbeth feels abandoned, as her two best friends are now going out with each other. And after she gets off with a guy called Beer, half the school starts calling her a slut and Beer wants nothing more to do with her.
There are lots of ways to be nobody’s girl, and Liesbeth seems to manage all of them at once in this fierce, funny, courageous and sometimes sad new YA novel by Lydia Rood, the Netherlands’ most socially engaged and pugnacious children’s author.
When she ends up in an institution after a serious incident, Liesbeth reluctantly starts to talk to her therapist and to a group of her fellow patients. Much of the book consists of transcripts of these conversations, in which Liesbeth vents her anger with lots of striking observations and black humour. A picture of exactly what happened gradually emerges.
A gloomy novel? Far from it. It’s hard not to smile as you read about this tough and eloquent young woman. But just as the reader is laughing away, Liesbeth delivers a blow below the belt. These characters barely get up out of their chairs, and yet the story runs along at breakneck speed.
After the last page, Liesbeth’s unique voice lingers in the reader’s mind for a long time. Lydia Rood dares to write things that most authors choose to avoid. Without her, literature for young adults would be a less interesting place. This book is the sequel to Survival (2015), but can be read independently of that title.