Christelle Dabos is the author of The Mirror Visitor, which won the Gallimard Jeunesse-RTL-Télérama First Novel Competition.
Here and Only Here, is an immediately engaging novel depicting the ups, downs and strange in-betweens of high school. Four stories, four students, four lives. Madeleine, Pierre, Guy and Iris are each haunted with their own troubles, fighting through the war zone that is teenage life in a desperate attempt to survive. The battleground that is their high school is known as Here, and it is ruled by the all-powerful bully known as Prince. No one truly knows him, but everyone must praise him. At the start of the new year, each of the four students is faced with a terrible problem that sends them spiralling because, at Thursday 2:28 pm, their world might just end.
Being a teenager is… strange. Unpredictable. Inescapable. Indescribable. I have read a hundred books about a hundred teenagers, and as much as I’d love to spend my adolescent years falling in love with vampires and learning magic spells, that just doesn’t happen. I thought I’d never read a book that could show exactly what goes on inside the minds of teens. One that could describe the unspoken rules and hierarchy that suffocates secondary schools. Until I read Here and Only Here. The students considered ‘Bottoms’ or ‘Lousy Kids’ are picked on relentlessly, bullied and used. For no reason other than they can be. The ‘Tops’, the popular ones, never asking and always taking, are not immune to the fear that they create. Constantly worried they’re not fitting in, being looked at too much or not enough. Even the invisible ones, the kids everyone sees right through, who no one waves at in the halls or chooses to be partners with, are terrified they’ll be lost forever. These characters are as real as it gets.
Here and Only Here shows perfectly what the transition from primary to high school is like. We all go from being the big kids to the little ones. Unsure what to do, how to fit in, and unpleasantly surprised when we realise that to protect ourselves, we have to hurt others. Not only did Christelle Dabos know what to write about, but she knew how to write it. I’ll be the first to say that teenagers can be kind of boring. But with the expert words of this writer, I was unable to put the book away. Lyrical sentences and entire chapters are wrapped up in the ever-changing minds of the characters. Small twists and enthralling plot points leave you waiting for more.
I loved this book and would recommend it to people fourteen and above. Four out of five stars.
Warning: contains talk of vaping, smoking, drugs, abuse, suicide, and sex.