Book Reviews, YA Book Club for Writers

Book Club Review: Nevers by Sara Cassidy

Resourceful fourteen-year-old Odette is on the move again, traveling as a stowaway on a cheese cart with her hapless mother, Anneline. They are in Burgundy, France, in 1799, fleeing yet another calamity caused by Anneline (who is prone to killing people accidentally). At dawn they find themselves in a town called Nevers, which is filled with eccentric characters, including a man who obsessively smells hands, another who dreams of becoming a chicken and a donkey that keeps the town awake at night, braying about his narrow life. As Odette establishes a home in an abandoned guardhouse, she makes a friend in the relaxed Nicois and finds work as a midwife’s assistant. She and Nicois uncover a mystery that may lead to riches and, more important for Odette, a sense of belonging.

Our thoughts about this book:

Well, we either seem to love a book or hate a book and there sees to be little in between. What I can say about Nevers is we sure didn’t love it.

Funny enough our conversation started around little things that were liked about the book, and then when we reached the question of the overall story, not one of us enjoyed it. Basically because there is no story here. No story arc, no character arcs… “all premise with no story,” said one of our members.

The only character we felt was the most developed was Felix – Odette’s (the main character) dead step-father. Yes, you read that right, the best developed character was a dead one. Not a ghost… he was visited through Odette’s memories, so often that he became a well-developed character, and one we liked – thank goodness.

This story had no depth and not really any direction. A poster hung, asking for information, was mentioned about a third of the way into the story and then not mentioned again until near the climax, turned out to be a very important part of the story, but there was no lead up, no proper introduction, no occasional reminders that implied this poster was important.

We didn’t like the mother character, Anneline, nor the main character, her daughter, Odette. Odette who was more the mother character of her extremely sexualized and immature mother. The sexualized details in the story we felt were inappropriate for the intended middle grade audience. For example:

‘I’ve always been careful,’ Anneline cries, her eyes wild. ‘After you, I mean. A sponge dipped in vinegar works. Animal intestines are handy too–you tie one end and pull it over like a sock. Of course, simply separating at the right time, just before the big excitement–‘ “

Cassidy, Sara. Nevers. Orca Book Publishers, 2019.

This kinda made my jaw drop for a middle grade book… apparently, not just mine. I’d like to think if my eleven year old was reading this, he’d have no idea what she’s talking about… but then, if so, it shouldn’t be in there. There is also a child birth scene that left little to the imagination. I’m not one for censoring books, however, there is a line of appropriateness that needs to be considered for the intended age group.

The book was well researched. We could give Cassidy credit for that. The era of the French Revolution was accurately described.

Near the end of our meeting, someone asked if maybe the book wasn’t about the characters as much as it was about the town, it is titled Nevers after all. We wondered if reading it, with the view of it being a town story would have been any different?

We kept asking over and over again, how this book got published and especially by Orca – a well found publisher of children’s books? It’s one of those books that’s makes you think they must have had slim pickings to choose from, but how could that be? I guarantee there was something better in the slush pile!

As a book club member said, “A short book, but a long read.” We do not recommend this book. Here’s to hoping City of Ghosts, our October read, is a winner!

__________________________

This is an unsolicited review. I purchased my copy for Kindle at Amazon.ca.

  • Paperback : 240 pages
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1459821637
  • Publisher :  Orca Book Publishers (Sept. 3 2019)

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