This was another gift from the Book Fairy. We Come Apart is the brand spanking new Sarah Crossan, this time a co-write with Brian Conaghan. Like One, it’s written in accessible blank verse, which makes some not-easy subject matter deceptively easy to read.
We Come Apart is written from the points of view of Nicu and Jess, two teenagers who meet at community service. As you might guess by the fact they’ve ended up at community service, they both have *stuff* going on which makes life… interesting. Jess has problems at home; a mum not being a very good mum, and a stepdad not being a very good human being. Her friends aren’t particularly good friends, either, come to that.
Nicu is a first generation immigrant from Romania. He’s trying to learn the language, trying to be a ‘man’ in his parents’ eyes, trying to assimilate in an entirely new culture in the face of racism and prejudice.
Between them, these characters make sure the poetry touches on all sorts of hot topics, particularly in today’s socio-political climate. Poverty, education, social services, women’s rights over their bodies, racism and xenophobia, crime and youth offending… the list goes on. But that’s not what makes this an unusual YA story. The next bit contains spoilers, so if you don’t want to know… look away now!
I’m going to give away the ending, now.
Last chance to look away…
In the end, having found each other, and decided to run away from their dangerously crappy lives, they’re accidentally involved in a GBH incident and are thrown into a panic. Nicu sacrifices himself; he gives Jess all of their money and deliberately misses their train, sending her off by herself, believing she will be safer without him. Having burned pretty much all of his bridges, the book ends with him on a train platform, and we’re not sure if he can go back home, or if he is now broke, alone, and homeless. Jess, however, is safely on a train with enough money to get herself started somewhere new… and while she is angry with him for tricking her, she also understands that he acted out of love.
What gives?! a YA unhappy ending??
I’m just kidding. Mostly. I did appreciate the poignancy of the ending, and I understood why it ended there – the book was about Nicu and Jess coming together and then coming apart. But I’m not going to lie, part of the reason I love fiction, and YA fiction at that, is usually – not always, mind – the couple end up together, the bad guys get theirs, the good guys are happy, and even when none of that happens, the story still has closure.
I guess I’m just hungry for more of this story, ultimately. I want to know what happened to Nicu and Jess… which means it was a successful book, I suppose!
Ultimately, the ending did not spoil my appreciation for We Come Together, and I would encourage anyone who liked One to read this one too. Well written, easy to read (sort of), makes you think, makes you care about the characters, and an interesting departure from prose.