I must have you. By Joanna Novak. Release date 7th May 2017.
The year is 1999, and thirteen-year-old Elliot is a self-appointed “diet coach” who teaches her classmates how to survive on one stick of gum a day to get heroin-chic, Kate Moss thin. Elliot is obsessed with her best friend and former “client” Lisa, who is fresh out of inpatient treatment and dating a nineteen-year-old drug dealer. Meanwhile, Elliot’s mother Anna, a capricious poetry professor, has a drug addiction and eating disorder of her own. When Lisa transfers her fixation from food to sex with her boyfriend, Elliot’s fragile grip on reality begins to falter, at the same that time that Anna’s fascination with the object of her own blind lust, the student who relinquishes his cocaine to her during office hours begins to consume her. I Must Have You is the story of what happens one three-day weekend in an explosion of desire, hunger, and lost innocence.
I’m finding it difficult to review this book. It’s not that it’s a bad book, it’s just that it’s not a nice book.
I’m not sure I’m explaining myself well, let me try to put my thoughts down and hope they make sense.
The story is narrated by 14 year old Elliott, 14 year old Lisa, and Anna, Elliott’s mum.
The voices of each narrator are clear, I didn’t find myself getting in a muddle, as I sometimes do when a story is told by more than one person.
The writing feels chaotic, a little like words tumbling onto the page, but this actually fits the story because that itself feels quite chaotic.
I didn’t like any of the 3 main characters, I’m not entirely sure if I was even supposed to. I kind of wanted, and kept hoping, that someone, anyone was going to step up and say fuck, you lot are a mess, something must be done.
I must have you is not an easy read. It’s raw, and uncomfortable. With subjects such as anorexia, underage sex, drugs, messed up friendships, f****d up people, it’s not a beach read or a curl-up-with-a-hot-chocolate read.
There was no happy, neatly wrapped up ending, which I think I’d have liked after such a rollercoaster of a story, but having said that I think a happy neat ending would have been rather twee. And, I suppose, unrealistic.
Now, this may all sound as though I hated this book, I didn’t. If I really don’t like a book I just won’t read it. But I did. I kept on reading, because, well, I couldn’t stop. Even though I felt like I needed a lie down in a dark room afterwards.
I must have you definitely stirred emotions in me, shock, anger, irritation, sadness. Which I think speaks for the strength of the writing.
Did I enjoy I must have you? No, but I am glad I read it.
I’m actually giving it four stars because it kept me reading and gave me lots of feelings, although I would say perhaps give it a wide berth if you might find any of the themes triggering.
I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley for review purposes but all thoughts and opinions are my own.