Originally published: April 2020
Author: Jenny Valentine
Published by: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 192 pages
Reading dates: 26-29 April 2020
With a quote from the wonderful Sarah Crossan on the cover, when I was approached to take part in an Instagram readalong of this book by Tandem Collective I was in! I enjoy reading YA and Sarah Crossan is probably my favourite YA author and as Hello Now was a short read, so I said yes!
In the beginning, before Novo showed up, my mum and me moved to the seaside. Then the first of July, 11.34am. Novo arrived. I was like an atom in his orbit. Alone with him, feeling the pull. Suddenly in the moment, in the Now.
Then a terrible, unthinkable Now. One that could tear my family apart. But Nows can be undone, rewritten, changed.
Goodbye to life as I know it.
And Hello Now…
Tandem Collective are brilliant at readalongs and provide cards with quotes and points for discussion that make you think more deeply around the book and enable you to share your thoughts with other readers. One of the early prompts asked if we thought the main character Jude was a boy or girl. It wasn’t until this point that I realised I’d made an assumption that Jude was a girl even though we are actually never told. Why did I make that assumption? I guess because it is a love story and Jude talks about her feelings a lot and I assumed (probably wrongly) that this is a more feminine trait. We never find out for sure during the book so in this review I will refer to Jude as a she, just because it is really hard to write a review without using he or she in it!
Jude and her mum are moving to the seaside, something Jude definitely isn’t happy about, especially as the house they are moving to has a sitting tenant, one that lives right in the middle of the house. Henry Lake is elderly and has lived in the house for many years, and the estate agents selling point is that he will probably die soon and leave them in peace!
One day, Jude is looking out of the window and sees a boy called Novo arrive in a battered black car. Instantly drawn to him, Jude follows him through town and to the beach where they make an instant connection. There is something other-worldly about Novo – he seems to have magical powers and soon draws Jude into his world. They go diving underwater and sail boats out to sea. Jude realises she is somewhere else but is alarmed by her mother’s reaction when she appears to have gone missing. She has no idea how long she’d been gone.
I liked Henry as a character and liked his connection to Novo and what was happening between Novo and Jude. The book shows how love can be all encompassing and overwhelming, how sometimes it isn’t always a happy ending.
This is a difficult book to review. I just found it all a bit difficult and weird. It is aimed at the YA audience so maybe a real YA reader instead of 47 year old me would be more accepting of the plot. I liked that we never find out the gender of Jude and I did wonder if I would of noticed this, if it hadn’t been pointed out to me. Once I realised we weren’t told, I read the book trying to decide and I ended up flitting between Jude being a girl and a boy!
I did enjoy the writing and the imagination that went into this, but it was just all a bit strange and I can’t say I knew what was real and what wasn’t. This is a short book so was a quick read. It just wasn’t for me.
Many thanks to Tandem Collective and HarperCollins for sending me a copy as part of Hello Now as part of the readalong over on Instagram.
About the author:
Jenny Valentine (born 1970) is an English children’s novelist. For her first novel and best-known work, Finding Violet Park (HarperCollins, 2007), she won the annual Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime book award judged by a panel of British children’s writers.