Written by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan
Published February 9th 2017
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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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?
Jessica is a tormented teen. Living with her mother and step father in a violent home environment, Jessica has been sentenced to participate in a Reparation Scheme, her third offense landing her in police custody after a shoplifting incident. Jessica's behaviour is a reflection on her fragile mother, beaten and abused by a man who is dominant and malicious.
Nicu is living in England temporarily, his father having migrated from Romania to England in order to earn money as a dowry to obtain Nicu a wife. Fifteen year old Nicu labors for his father but when he's caught thieving and sentenced to the Reparation Scheme, he's forced to enroll in school.
Through the Reparation Scheme, Jessica and Nicu begin a tentative friendship. A language barrier. An unlikely connection and two teens finding solace in one another.
Jessica is a character who has endured torment and abuse, her stepfather a domineering and violent man. Although I've also experienced domestic violence as a child, I couldn't relate to Jessica and her often merciless attitude. Having committed her third offense and Nicu caught thieving, the two teens are both sentenced to the Reparation Program, an initiative to rehabilitate adolescents rather than facing prison.
Nicu's narrative was captivating. Having migrated with his parents to the United Kingdom, Nicu and his father are self employed in order to earn an adequate dowry to obtain a wife home in Romania. Although his parents are insistent, Nicu refuses to marry and wants to begin his life in the United Kingdom rather than return home. Nicu is absolutely endearing. His character explored the social injustice of racism and race profiling. It was interesting to see the comparison between both parents, Jessica had been arrested due to her third offense and they were treated with respect. Although it was insinuated that her behavior was a result of defective parenting.
I appreciate narratives told in verse, with so few words authors are able to captivate readers and Sarah Crossan is a wonderful storyteller who breathes life into her characters. We Come Apart touches on social issues such as domestic violence, racial profiling and racism. Nicu wants to be accepted and I felt Jessica had taken advantage of his affection, often choosing the cruelty of her unreliable friends and choosing not to asset herself and defend Nicu against their racist remarks.
I'm fascinated by stories of immigration and seeking asylum, which is the foundation for many Australians in particular. We Come Apart touches on those same foundations and as Nicu explores thoughts of his new surroundings and learning a new language, I'm dubious as to the validity of the representation.
We Come Apart is a touching exploration of friendship and transcending barriers of language and stereotypes. Although I became increasingly frustrated with Jessica's character, the narrative was captivating, immersive and representative of our broken societies.