Synopsis: Francis Wootton’s first memory is of Kurt Cobain’s death, and there have since been other hardships much closer to home.
At fifteen years old he already knows all about loss and rejection – and to top it all off he has a permanently broke big brother, a grandma with selective memory (and very selective social graces) and a mum who’s at best an acquired taste. Would-be poet, possible intellectual, and definitely wasted in Tyne and Wear, Francis has grown used to figuring life out on his own.
Lower Fifth is supposed to be his time, the start of an endless horizon towards whatever-comes-next. But when he is diagnosed with leukaemia that wide-open future suddenly narrows, and a whole new world of worry presents itself.
There’s the horror of being held back a year at school, the threat of imminent baldness, having to locate his best shirt in case a visiting princess or pop-star fancies him for a photo-op . . . But he hadn’t reckoned on meeting Amber – fierce, tough, one-of-a-kind Amber – and finding a reason to tackle it all – the good, the bad, and everything in between – head on.
In Bloom is a bright, funny, painful, and refreshing novel about wanting the very best from life, even when life shows you how very bad it can be. It is a novel about how to live.
Review: I do not read a lot of novels featuring young people fighting against diseases. Not that it is not worth it… It’s just that this is not the kind of novels to which I turn to… Then I also know for a fact that I’m going to cry at some point in my reading, especially when it comes to cancer. The French synopsis mentions several times The Fault in Our Stars but I tell you right away that I could not compare the stories since I have not read the book or seen the movie.
Let us return more particularly to the story … Francis is a young 15 year old boy who discovers that he is suffering from cancer. This is something quite sudden and it is true that our hero doesn’t know how to manage all the changes in his life. But then everything falls into abeyance when he goes to the hospital to fight against his illness. This is also where he meets Amber, trying to deal with the same disease. It is a lively young girl, explosive and who does not hesitate to say what she thinks. Something very touching is slowly created between them over the pages, they will fight together, find love together and evolve through all difficulties.
I was quite surprised to see that the author did not really linger on the disease in the novel. Of course this is the essential topic of the story but I mean that we do not focus on the parts where Francis is very ill, on the details, but rather on his interactions with others. This shows us the changes in her mother, her brother but also Amber or the people around them. The characters are also very interesting to discover! I loved Julie, Francis’ mother. This is a woman who possesses a strong presence, who is capable of anything for her son but who also tries to see more off all what happens. Chris is the big brother that we would dream of having, funny, present and listening. This is a very interesting dynamic and really touching family to discover. And then we have Amber. She is so different from Francis who is much more discreet and quiet but they complement each other perfectly well.
When we start the story we doubt that the whole thing won’t end well, that one of the two will succumb to the disease and it’s true that I started to cry all alone in front of my book. But it was also interesting to have an introspective years later at the end of the novel to see the evolution of the characters. A good discovery.