Review: This Is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees


Title: This Is Not Forgiveness

Author: Celia Rees

Published: Bloomsbury February 2012

Synopsis: 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.

Status: Read on April 14, 2012 – I own a copy {Courtesy Bloomsbury ANZ}

My Thoughts:

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.

Available To Purchase

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@Bloomsbury UK I @ Amazon US I @Amazon Uk

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Patty
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 07:53:12

    This sounds really truly great…loved your take on it…I love books like this!



  2. The Australian Bookshelf
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 18:19:46

    This one isn’t something i would ordinarily pick up but it sounds like a YA novel with depth and complex characters that play on your mind. Great review



  3. Pocketful of Books (@PocketfulofBook)
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 20:29:15

    Great review! I really want to try this out now! I enjoy being unsettled! x



  4. Kailana
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 01:59:11

    I read Rees ages ago but just the one book by her. I should check into her again.



  5. Celia Rees
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 05:29:51

    Thanks for the excellent review – I really appreciate it and it’s great to get a review from Australia – the wonders of the internet!



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