We Come Apart
by Sarah Crossman & Brian Conaghan
YA rising stars Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan join forces to break readers’ hearts in this contemporary story of star-cross’d lovers.
Jess would never have looked twice at Nicu if her friends hadn’t left her in the lurch. Nicu is all big eyes and ill-fitting clothes, eager as a puppy, even when they’re picking up litter in the park for community service. He’s so not her type. Appearances matter to Jess. She’s got a lot to hide.
Nicu thinks Jess is beautiful. His dad brought Nicu and his mum here for a better life, but now all they talk about is going back home to find Nicu a wife. The last thing Nicu wants is to get married. He wants to get educated, do better, stay here in England. But his dad’s fists are the most powerful force in Nicu’s life, and in the end, he’ll have to do what his dad wants.
As Nicu and Jess get closer, their secrets come to the surface like bruises. The only safe place they have is with each other. But they can’t be together, forever, and stay safe – can they?
‘We Come Apart’ is an interestingly told story about two very seemingly different people who in fact have many similarities which eventually bring them together. The verse is capturing and fascinating but also limits the story and the amount of depth it could go to.
I was initially very drawn to this story, excited about the story’s unconventional form and relevant topic area. Nicu has moved to England with an overbearing father and a passive but well-intentioned mother who both plan to find a wife for Nicu back in their home of Romania. Nicu himself is sweet and kind but because of his baggy clothes and broken English people are just downright horrible to him. Yes, this is the sort of book where you intensely want to jump into the story and just punch and yell everyone. Because of a pure misunderstanding, Nicu is put in a community service program for troubled teens where he meets Jess. I. did. not. like. Jess. I did not appreciate her weakness for failing to stand up for Nicu or for herself. However, she did also have a troubled background – an abusive step-brother and loving yet also weak-willed mother. A chronic shoplifter who is caught in the moment, she is also sent to the same program as Nicu where she is taken by is innocence and genuine goodness. Nicu was very taken by Jess in a very sweet, puppy-love sort of way however for me, Jess’ interest in Nicu was just plain manipulation. She uses him to get away from her friends or get away from her family but very rarely does she fight for Nicu when her friend’s harass him. Even at the end SPOILER EVERYONE SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH, it is because of her distress and failure to plan anything, that Nicu is burdened with an even bigger crime than before. If she had just thought things through thoroughly or perhaps even defend Nicu in that knife situation, everything would be fine.
I really enjoy and appreciate verse novels except this one was just not long enough. I loved how Nicu’s side of the story was accurate to how he thinks and was even accurate to his language. Likewise, Jess’ section was also true to her self-consciousness and fear. Despite all this, the verse failed to give more dimension to the story so it felt very shallow. The story and focus of the book itself is very far from simple but in my opinion, I don’t think verse was the best way to convey it. If the book was longer and told in maybe a combination of verse and normal prose, the books would’ve been much more packed and eventful.
All in all, an enjoyable and original love (???) story that also focuses on bullying, the immigrant experience, family problems and the determination to chase your own desires.