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The world can tip at any moment…a fact that fifteen-year-old Pearl is all too aware of when her mom 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.
Mom, though…Mom’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 humor 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 mom is no longer around.
This is a wonderfully written debut novel that managed to portray a teenage Pearl's struggle with the death of her mother very realistically. The pace of this story is a little slow at times, and it didn't necessarily have a stand-out storyline. However, the writing, characterisation and shifting relationship dynamics between a variety of characters really drew me in.
Pearl's response to the loss of her mother was heartbreakingly real. Although some of her decisions aren't smart and she shut out a lot of important people in her life, I understood why she felt that she needed to do or say certain things. I really felt that her choices were a believable reaction when considering her mindset and emotional state, whether or not they were reasonable.
In terms of the romance, I liked that it was quite a minor and subtle element, it never threatened to overtake the main plot. I was a little confused as to where the attraction initially started, seeing as the first few occasions where Pearl and Finn met and communicated were full of awkwardness, a bit of attitude aaaaaand some vomit-stench.
Overall, a very touching read that explores the struggles of dealing with devastating loss and grief. And I'll admit, it made me tear up a little.