‘We Come Apart’ by Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan

/5 stars

Published by Bloomburys!

‘We Come Apart’ slowly unravels the lives of two teens from vastly different backgrounds, both though of whom have been dished out their fair share of bad luck. Nicu is a Romanian immigrant who moves to London with his parents. He’s struggling to settle in a society that simply won’t accept him, whilst also trying to deal with being shoehorned into an arranged marriage back home. Jess, a Londoner born and bred, attempts to have some form of control over her violent home life by shop-lifting, hanging out with the complete wrong crowd and ultimately getting into trouble with the police. Then the two meet at a youth reparation scheme carrying out community service, and, bit by bit, they begin to come together.

I read Sarah Crossan’s ‘One’ last year and it was definitely one of my favourite books of 2016. However, I didn’t actually manage to review it properly on here, because I… struggled to find the right words. Struggled to find the right words when, in a free verse narrative, every word felt so finely tailored to tell the story. I was a little daunted initially about reading a book told entirely through poetry, if I’m honest. I didn’t know how I was meant to read it. If there was some kind of rule or rhythm in a book that wasn’t strictly told in prose, or that didn’t abide by the characteristics of iambic pentameter or rhyming couplets or any of that.

But I’ve come to really treasure and admire the format, especially now I’ve read ‘We Come Apart’, another book by Sarah Crossan, and also Brian Conaghan. Because in free verse the pacing is so different. It feels smoother, but also simultaneously quicker. You find yourself racing through the story and, in some ways, although you’re processing the words that much faster the impact somehow feels bigger. The impact of it hits you square in the chest when something pivotal happens. You turn a page like you might turn a sharp corner in the street and suddenly you’ve smacked into this horrible, painful thing. You’re running through these delicately woven words and then BAM! It happens. It’s awful and yet you knew it was coming, but you just weren’t quite ready for exactly how it would be delivered. In far fewer words that someway, somehow hurt even more.

Oh god… I’ve gone on a tangent. What I’m trying to say is: ‘We Come Apart’ has cemented my love for free verse as a story telling device. That moment that we were hurtling towards, climbing up and up before the big drop, really began to bring together for me how free verse can be used to create a journey that you really feel, that is tangible. Not to mention how utterly beautiful the words strung together were as a whole regardless of the plot itself. Just, gah!

But let’s get more specific, because I definitely started gushing and getting way ahead of myself before I said anything about this book which actually makes any sense to anyone other than me.

The dual perspective of Jess and Nicu was so utterly well done. It was great, not only to get both halves of their shared story, but to be able to almost physically hear their individual voices and, indeed, their separate cultures and lifestyles. I especially loved Nicu’s. As a character, he was just so pure and kind, and had this almost innocence about him and the strange new world he was entering. I will praise Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan to the end of this earth for bringing diversity to their book and for casting such a stark, cruel insight into the ignorance of some British people and their perspectives in terms of immigrants and what stereotypes we put on them. Especially in hindsight of the Brexit decision, it really brought ‘We Come Apart’ to life and marked the story it was telling in our history.

Jess’ narrative was equally as telling in her family problems. You felt just how heartbreakingly stuck Jess was in her situation and I think perhaps above all else that was the scariest, most harrowing part; that she thought she would never be able to slip away and live outside of the constant pattern of violence that had become her day-to-day life. But that wasn’t the case, and I have to point out that it was interesting to me that, in the end, Jess would be the one to actually get away, whilst Nicu, the POC, dealt with the fallout. That seemed to me like a very calculated and poignant move on both authors part in the planning of this story.

In that sense then, ‘We Come Apart’ is cripplingly relevant to the attitudes of the western world today towards race and the working class. Because, in the grand scheme of things, we are all, in our own perhaps secret ways, struggling with something. And so the world needs a little empathy. That’s what ‘We Come Apart’ really offers: the chance to take a stroll in someone else’s shoes and begin to truly understand.

Favourite lines:

“I want to find her world, to see what she see, to pain with her pain. Most of all I want my hand to touching hers, but I just leave it.”

“We don’t get far. But we do manage to move. We do get somewhere tied together like that.”

“And I dreaming of you last night, but my eyes don’t close for sleeping, and it raining in my stomach, and it storming in my heart.”

“This is what I also thinking: I dream of my heart beating on top of Jess heart. So we beat like one.”

Thank you to Bloomsbury via NetGalley for this review copy!*

‘We Come Apart’ is out 9th February!

Currently listening to #2


3 responses to “‘We Come Apart’ by Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan”

  1. I’m so glad you liked it; this book is on my wishlist and even if I’m going to wait an entire year in order to have my paperback copy I really can’t wait to read it!
    Especially because I really like Sarah’s writing.


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