Monday 28 November 2016

Book Review: How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss

Last Updated: 10 May 2024

How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss book cover

AD* | Our memories are what make us who we are. Some are real. Some are made up. But they are the stories that tell us who we are. Without them we are nobody.

Hattie's summer isn't going as planned. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to 'find himself" and Kat is in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile, Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with endless drama around her mum's wedding. Oh, and she's also just discovered that she's pregnant with Reuben's baby.

Then Gloria, Hattie's great-aunt who no one even knew existed, comes crashing into her life. Gloria's fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia. Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery - Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are erased from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future.

How Not to Disappear is a surprisingly involving story, somehow managing to be both heartwarming and achingly sad at different points throughout the book. It is billed as a YA story, but I believe that it is actually much more than that. The author manages to transcend the usual limitations of the young adult genre to create a story that has the ability to appeal to a much wider audience. It is contemporary and deals with a whole host of complicated issues (teen pregnancy, dementia, family drama) in a very mature way, which is especially significant given the target audience. 

Hattie was a great main character, as a girl on the cusp of adulthood she played the parts of both maturity and immaturity with perfection at varying points. She is a highly conflicted character, and this works very well within the confines of the story. From the difficulties associated with denial then eventually coming to terms with her pregnancy, to the issues and final friendship with Gloria, she really deals with a true roller-coaster of emotions on her journey throughout the book. It is also particularly nice symbolism when you consider that the two women are embarking on a physical journey as well as personal emotional journeys, yet they are both sharing their personal journeys and forays into the past with each other (and us, as the reader) in dribs and drabs as the story progresses. Speaking of characters - I have a bone to pick with Zoe-from-Kettering for giving Kettering (my hometown) a bad name!

There were some absolutely glorious passages of prose and descriptive narration present in this book. Clare Furniss is already establishing herself as a master of the written word, and the hidden gems in this book only served to exemplify that fact. Granted, it may have been rather slow-paced and the ending felt rather forced and a little too happily convenient, but there are some real masterpieces in the characters and the writing style that made me want to keep reading. At the end of the day, it tackles some serious, important issues in an approachable way, without skirting around the situation. It has some good points and some slightly less good points, but it's still a solid novel. I, for one, will be looking out for more of Furniss' books in the future. 

Rating: 4 stars

How Not to Disappear is available to buy now (paid link; commission earned). 

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

Are you a fan of Clare Furniss? Let me know in the comments below! 

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