After Iris by Natasha Farrant
Publisher: Puffin / Penguin
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Snapdragon
Blue Gadsby’s twin sister, Iris, died three years ago and her family has never been the same. Her histrionic older sister, Flora, changes her hair color daily; her younger siblings, Jasmine and Twig, are completely obsessed with their pet rats; and both of her parents spend weeks away from home–and each other. Enter Zoran the Bosnian male au pair and Joss the troublemaking boy next door, and life for the Gadsby family takes a turn for the even more chaotic. Blue poignantly captures her family’s trials and tribulations from fragmented to fully dysfunctional to ultimately reunited, in a sequence of film transcripts and diary entries that will make you cry, laugh, and give thanks for the gift of families.
With the charm of The Penderwicks and the poignancy of When You Reach Me, Natasha Farrant’s After Iris is a story that will stay with readers long after the last page.
Unpredictable, quick, and yet believable, After Iris is a simply wonderful contemporary story. Bluebell “Blue” Gadsby had a twin, once. At first, that memory seems to define her, what little of her 12 year-old self we see. She’s more involved in watching others–and we get a great study of her teenage sister and younger siblings (and pets) and a great amount of her speculation about her often-absent parents.
Although the premise seems sad, in fact, there’s a lot going on. Daily life and interactions have taken over and amazing stuff seems to happen every minute. As the children are largely in their London home, with the one square of backyard, you might sit back and times and wonder how much can really happen.
The truth is, the action never stops. I loved Blue, the main character’s voice–her interest in and awareness of other people. She didn’t need a ‘babysitters,’ yet still warmed up to the au pair straightaway. He let her know that every family had a ‘quiet kid,’ and its okay to be that kid.
Their are arguments, unexpected develops, the unexpected first love interest, jealousy, and the mystery of specific family issues on-going, the whole time. Readers will identify with Blue, and if you aren’t a kid, you’ll remember thinking like a kid…you’ll remember friendships found…and lost, and what it is to be ‘in’ or ‘out’ at school.
Farrant handles the issues of loss and memory with sensitivity but also, with a refreshing reality. Every moment is not about Iris, but her absence is felt.
After Iris is probably the best thing I’ve read since back when Judy Blume’s Margaret wrote for that age group… 5 stars, and put it on the must read list for any middle-grade reader.