There’s something so sweet about YA novels with a grandma that plays a major role in the narrative. Maybe it’s because it reminds me so much of my childhood — of warm hugs and scones fresh from the oven. Maybe it’s because I know that even though there might be tension between the characters or the grandma might not be the most likeable person at times, I know that there will always be a resolution of the conflict and I will always love the grandma in the end.
Aren’t grandmas just the cutest people in the whole world? While old people can be frustrating at times and we’ve all experienced moments when they hate us in retail or wherever we may be serving them, as soon as they start talking about their knitting or what they’re buying their grandson for their birthday, I’m wanting to be in their good books. Also, I love cookies. You know, just in case you might feel like baking me some one day.
But even though we all love reading about families and grandparents in books, even funny bickering grandparents, it’s rare that we get the opportunity to see them in YA fiction. If you think there’s a phenomenon of the missing parents, think about the grandparents. While I know that these relatives might not play a role as important to a mum or a dad, but I’d still love to see more of them in YA.
And that’s what I loved most about Margot & Me. Told from chapters in the present, revolving around Fliss’s new life with an unlikeable grandmother in Wales as her mother recovers from chemotherapy, and chapters from the past, written as diary entries from Fliss’s grandmother when she was living through the Second World War, we effectively got two main stories merged into one. I loved reading about both characters and found these alternating chapters imperative to the progression of the narrative. I wouldn’t have been able to form the same strong bond with her grandmother, Margot, without the epistolary aspect.
While it took me a little while to finally click with the character of Fliss, as I found it hard to connect with her in the beginning because of how bitter she was towards her life and being made to move to Wales, away from all of her friends, I really did enjoy getting to know her. Juno perfectly captured the teenage voice, making Fliss an incredibly genuine and relatable character. We were able to follow her through ups and downs, watching her grow into a more resilient and strong person. I also loved seeing her attitude towards her grandmother shift as they learn more about one another.
Margot, Fliss’s grandmother, would definitely be my favourite character in Margot & Me. Reading Margot’s diary entries were so thrilling and I loved how seamlessly we were transported back into the Second World War and how these parts contained a separate story to the one Fliss was telling. This framed narrative is something I don’t see often in YA, but I really enjoyed it and I’d definitely be happy to search out more of these types of books in future. What was effectively a story within a story couldn’t have been executed more brilliantly, and it allowed me to empathise with Margot and understand how she turned into the person she was in the present.
The family dynamics were absolutely fantastic in this novel. If you’re someone, like me, who’s sick of absent family members, then I urge you to pick up Margot & Me. While there is a lot of tragedy and heartache, the hope that’s expressed and the bravery that these characters find within themselves make it a book I’d recommend for people who are fans of YA and even those that aren’t. Margot & Me is a heart-wrenching, poignant novel, and I can’t recommend it enough. If you enjoyed reading How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss or Wing Jones by Katherine Webber, you should add Margot & Me to your TBR immediately.
Have you had the chance to read Margot & Me yet? Do you love grandmas in YA novels? What books can you recommend that have adorable grandparents in them? I’d love to know!
Thanks to Hot Key Books and Allen & Unwin Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Gorgeous grandma drawing used in header sourced from Pinterest.
Margot & Me by Juno Dawson
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…