Author: Juno Dawson
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Sometimes love has to cross all kinds of barriers . . .
Fliss is on the way to visit her grandmother in Wales - the grandmother who she doesn't get on with - with her mother who is recuperating from chemotherapy. But her mum is getting better, that's the main thing, so Fliss can concentrate on being grouchy and not looking forward to meeting her grandmother Margot, who is so cold and always so unforgiving of Fliss's every mistake . . . But when the six months is up, Fliss consoles herself, she and her mum will go back to London and back to Real Life!
In the meantime Fliss needs to get used to her new school, not upset the scary girls, and just keep her head down (whilst still making sure that everybody knows she is from London, of course). Then Fliss discovers a diary at the back of her bookcase. It is from the 1940s and is set in World War II, and, Fliss realises, is actually Margot's diary from when she was a young woman during the Blitz. Intrigued, Fliss begins to read. There she discovers a whole new side to Margot, a wartime romance and also Margot's deepest, most buried secret. And it is then that Fliss discovers something terrible in her own life that she is going to have to come to terms with...
Margot & Me is Juno Dawson's best book to date, at least in my opinion. It was emotional and moving, I was sucked into the story and unable to put the book down. The book is set in the 90s and follows Fliss, a fashion forward teen from the city, as she moves to a rural Welsh town with her mother, to live on her grandmothers farm. Her mother is in remission, having gone through gruelling chemotherapy and now needing a break and a place to relax. Fliss doesn't want there to be there at all, especially as she sees Margot as a miserable former career woman, who has never been warm or loving. She doesn't like her, and the feeling seems mutual.
We watch Fliss as she deals with this major change to her life. As she struggles with being the new girl and finding her place. I'll admit that Fliss's story seemed to have quite a few parallels to Mean Girls - not sure if this was on purpose or not. She moves to somewhere vastly different to where she is used to, with the typical Regina George type of mean girl and her two female sidekicks, and then our new girl is immediately befriended by a gay guy and his girl best friend. See, it is so Mean Girls. Where this book truly set itself apart was when Fliss discovers Margot's diary and begins to read it - here we begin to learn all about Margot's life during WWII, when she was evacuated from the city to Wales.
I loved the diary entries, it felt like they truly transported me back in time. It explored so many issues of the time; the racism and homophobia, as well as the every day struggles of living during a time of war. These entries allowed Fliss to see who her grandmother once was. She can't seem to reconcile the strong, funny, likeable Margot she finds in the diary with the cold, uncaring woman she has always known. The more she reads, the more she realises that she doesn't know very much about Margot, or what she has been through. There are things about Margot she will discover that even her mother doesn't know.
I can happily say that I loved this book, whilst also admitting it was not what I had been expecting at all. That is because the original summary I saw for this book said it contained an LGBT+ love story, and that Fliss discovere a scandal that could tear her family apart. I immediately thought that this meant Fliss would discover that her grandmother had fallen in love with a woman during the war, but married a man because of the pressures put on her by society at the time. This was not the case at all. I don't really see any LGBT+ love story present in this book, which is a shame, so I will admit to being slightly disappointed by that. I loved the book regardless, especially for how it explored some important issues, like racism and homophobia. The story was very emotional, I couldn't put it down. I came to care so deeply for Fliss and Margot, especially as I learnt more of Margot's past. I loved watching Fliss discover more about Margot, and how their relationship changed over the course of the book.
You might wonder, given how much I am gushing over this book, why it didn't get 5/5 from me. I truly did love this story, it just wasn't quite perfect for me. I felt it all got a little too tragic at the end, to the point where it started to feel a little like a soap opera. My other issue was that it ended very abruptly, so I felt I didn't get much closure to the story. Yes, it had a real ending but it also left me with so many other questions and things I still wanted to know. I still highly recommend the book though, I especially loved how easily Juno Dawson could transport me back in time.
I received a copy of this book from Hot Key Books in exchange for an honest review.