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.
Moving, heart-wrenching and completely unique, Clare Furniss has a real little gem here. Having bought her earlier work, The Year of the Rat, but never having gotten around to actually reading it, it is fair to say that my expectations from this author are high. So damn bloody high – she has turned me into a quivering wreck.
The story focusses on the lives of Hattie and Gloria, distant relatives who had little knowledge of either one’s existence until a nosey neighbour calls up and intervenes. Now, if I were to receive a call out of nowhere claiming that a distant and unheard of relative of mine were I’ll, I would think someone was pulling my leg. Clare Furniss made this such a brilliant novel through her careful twisting of the past and the present, and the old and the young. While defined as a young adult novel, this is a book I will be recommending to the older generation. It is incredibly eye-opening, no matter how old you are.
Some serious issues are touched upon here. I haven’t read or encountered a lot of books that focus on teenage pregnancy. Those that I have have never seemed to delve into such depth that Clare Furniss has. Hattie’s story is absolutely memorising. Something I really liked was how Hattie and Gloria’s stories seemed to run alongside one another. Another serious issue mentioned in this story is dementia. This is a personal issue for me, as I had a relative who suffered for nine years with dementia. Clare Furniss deserve such admiration for her portrayal of Gloria in struggling with this degenerate disease.
The characters are all likeable, and while Reuben is ultimately a shitty guy, you can’t help but fall under his charm much like Hattie did. Hattie is the little girl inside all of us. Her childhood has ended and she faces a serious decision ahead of her. She probably is one of my favourite lead characters I have ever read about. Gloria is hilarious and never stopped me from laughing. Yet her story is incredibly tragic and I can’t help but feel a deep remorse that somewhere out there in the big bad world, there is or was a real life Gloria.
When looking back on this novel, it was probably one of the most time costing books, but the investment was really worth it. It changes your outlook on certain aspects of society and really makes you question the world we live in. If this book doesn’t win an award, then I will be thoroughly disappointed. Clare Furniss is easily one of my favourite UKYA authors.
Still unsure on whether this book is the one for you? Have a look at what other bloggers have to say.
Sarah @ Written Word Worlds says “How Not to Disappear is a poignant and moving book.”
Jenna @ Reading With Jenna says “I really enjoyed the plot of the story.”
Carol @ Reading, Writing and Riesling says “I enjoyed every moment of this.”
Usually a book goes through several cover changes in its lifetime. Most variation depends on the publishing location. How Not to Disappear is available in the following cover formats.