- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
- Format: Paperback | 288 pages
- Dimensions: 128mm x 194mm x 22mm | 200g
- Publication date: 2 February 2012
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 1408817691
- ISBN 13: 9781408817698
- Sales rank: 281,145
Everyone says that Caro is bad ...but Jamie can't help himself. He thinks of her night and day and can't believe that she wants to be his girlfriend. Gorgeous, impulsive and unconventional, she is totally different to all the other girls he knows. His sister, Martha, hates her. Jamie doesn't know why, but there's no way he's going to take any notice of her warnings to stay away from Caro. But as Jamie falls deeper and deeper under her spell, he realises there is more to Caro - much more. There are the times when she disappears and doesn't get in touch, the small scars on her wrists, her talk about revolutions and taking action, not to mention the rumours he hears about the other men in her life. And then always in the background there is Rob, Jamie's older brother, back from Afghanistan and traumatised after having his leg smashed to bits there. Jamie wants to help him, but Rob seems to be living in a world of his own and is increasingly difficult to reach. With Caro, the summer should have been perfect ...but that isn't how things work out in real life, and Jamie is going to find out the hard way. This taut psychological drama is the brilliant new novel from acclaimed Celia Rees.
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Celia Rees lives in Leamington Spa where she writes her novels. She has been shortlisted for both the Guardian and the Whitbread children's fiction awards. Her novels have been translated into over twenty languages.
By Shelley Cusbert 18 Apr 2012
This Is Not Forgiveness is a dark, contemporary young adult novel exploring themes such as alienation, depression and extremism with a confronting message. The book opens as Jamie contemplates a small brown plastic urn that contains the ashes of his brother, Robert, and then traces the events that led to his death. The story unfolds through first person narratives from Jamie, Caro and Robert allowing the reader essential insight into the motivations of each and their role in the story. Caro is the catalyst for the novel, desperate for attention and with the need to matter, she is anxious to prove to her political activism group that she can make a difference. Swept away by idealism she plans an action that will draw attention to the cause. To ensure it's success, she needs the cooperation of Jamie and the skills of his brother, injured war vet Robert and she expertly manipulates the brothers to her own ends until the plan goes awry and Caro realises she is in over her head.
Jamie is a fairly average teenage boy but getting involved with Caro turns his world upside down. Blinded by infatuation he doesn't see Caro's faults, or chooses to ignore them. Jamie's obsession with Caro is difficult to comprehend but teens do stupid things in the name of love all the time so his behaviour is not unusual. Jamie is the character that invites sympathy, he is sweet and sensitive and is very nearly destroyed by Caro and his brother.
Caro is not really a sympathetic character, she is cold and capricious and her naivete is edged with ruthlessness. Yet she is young, idealistic and lonely, with a sad family background, so its difficult to not feel something for her, Caro's mothers neglect is a contributing factor to her daughters poor self esteem. Caro is a lost young woman and though she goes some way to redeeming herself in the end, it's not enough.
What strikes me most about This Is Not Forgiveness is how little would have been needed to avert the tragedy. Caro and Robert both represent people who are alienated from their families, peers and society.
Robert has recently been invalided out of the service after an traumatic leg injury sustained in Afghanistan. Rees hints that even before entering the army Robert had mental health issues and now he is finding it difficult to readjust to civilian life. Suffering from PTSD and depression, he feels he has lost his purpose so when Caro approaches him with her plan he grasps it. Robert's story is tragic and his story is confronting. It infuriates me that Veterans are largely ignored once they have returned home, the lack of care and support, particularly for injured servicemen, is disgraceful and Rees highlights the issue dramatically.
This Is Not Forgiveness is a remarkable book, unsettling and thought provoking, I feel it may be most suitable for mature young adults.
By Stephanie Forster (Stepping out of the Page) 29 Jan 2012
I have only read one other book by Celia Rees, Blood Sinister, when I was quite a lot younger, but I still connect Rees with historical and some horror stories. This book is very different from the subjects and style of what Rees has written in the past and I thought that it was quite ambitious.
The story revolves around three people - Jamie and Rob, who are brothers, and a girl who comes into both of their lives - Caro. Jamie is supposedly your typical teenage boy, who gets a little bit obsessive with Caro, and considers them to be in a relationship. At points, I found his focus on Caro to turn him into quite a weak-willed character. Often, he put Caro before anything or anyone else, and didn't seem very grateful to others who tried to befriend or help him. He only seemed to take Caro into consideration.
Caro herself is a very dark and mysterious character. Although she has a luxurious lifestyle to fall back on, she doesn't let this change her. I did enjoy learning about the rebellious, anarchist and very political side of Caro, I found it to give her a lot more complexity and it gave me some insight into her personality. However, Caro, in general, is not very likeable. She seems dangerous and has a bad attitude - this may have made her appeal to the men in the story, but it certainly didn't make her appeal to me.
Rob, Jamie's brother, could have been the most interesting character for me. He is back in England after being rather severely injured whilst fighting in Afghanistan. For the most part of the novel, we find out about him through transcripts of his online video diary. His dialect felt very authentic and his attitude really reflected his personality as well as how it changed due to fighting in a war. Whilst the basis was there, I think Rob could've been developed into a much deeper character. He was obviously very troubled, but with some research from the author, the portrayal of psychological effects could have been even better.
Martha is a fourth character who is featured in this book, but we do not read from her point of view. She is Jamie and Rob's sister and is obviously very opinionated when concerning her past with Caro. I think that she also could have certainly contributed more to the story as she was a strong character.
One of the main things that bugged me from this book was how the teenagers were portrayed. A lot of the book, at the beginning, focused on teen culture in a negative way. The book was full of swearing, alcohol, drug abuse and sex - it seemed like the characters lives revolved around these things and as I don't really have an interest in that lifestyle, I couldn't connect with them and found it to be a little immature - I would not recommend this for younger readers. At some points, I thought that these subjects actually distracted from much more important issues that could have been discussed.
The attempt to be political was interesting though, especially the parts about the Red Army Faction. I have studied the Baader-Meinhof, a group of urban guerrillas who disrupted Germany's system in the 70's, and found them very interesting. I was shocked and pleased that Rees included them in this book and did add a little bit of history to her story - this actually made the book a lot more enjoyable for me as it was fascinating to see how Caro almost idolised this group and how they influenced her.
This book definitely has a very powerful start, but from thereon in, it does slow down and then pick itself up again and again - at points, it almost felt rushed. I do think that the ending somewhat redeemed this book, and I did enjoy it. This book was definitely mixed for me though, as I've described. It was still a quite quick read, introducing some important issues and it did have some substance.
Sleek, dark and dangerous. Celia Rees has ventured into new territory and returned with explosives -- Patrick Ness In a remarkable book that manages to be both lyrical and gritty in the same breath, Celia Rees takes us into an apparently ordinary world where love, betrayal, faith and violence appear hand in hand on virtually every page. I love it for its deceptively gentle prose, its totally believable characters and its vortex of a plot -- Melvin Burgess Its momentum is impressive Daily Mail This is a fantastic novel - dark and ominous but at the same time intimate and quite beautiful The Bookbag