The A-Z of You and Me – James Hannah

The A-Z of You and Me – James Hannah

Title: The A-Z of You and Me
Author: James Hannah
Genre: Contemporary Adult Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: 1st April 2015
Pages: 267
Rating: 5/5 stars

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Ivo fell for her.

He fell for a girl he can’t get back.

Now he’s hoping for something.

While he waits he plays a game:

He chooses a body part and tells us its link to the past he threw away.

He tells us the story of how she found him, and how he lost her.

And he still has one thing left to do…

I probably wouldn’t have bought this book had I read the blurb. The blurb doesn’t appeal to me, but the cover does – all those swirls were what convinced me to open the first page. As the story progresses in alphabetical order, it made my perfectionist side very happy. And I am so glad I bought this book!

Ivo is in a hospice. Although not yet fifty, he is dying, his body overwhelmed by a lifetime of drug abuse and a failure to control his health conditions. Despite the protagonist’s state, however, this book still manages to be uplifting, heartfelt and beautiful. It is definitely sad, but it is a wonderfully phrased reminder to live well and do good by others.

Most of Ivo’s stories relate to his friends and the girl. The girl is mysterious for a good part of the book, and thus I won’t say too much about her. Not knowing was essential to my enjoyment. It was wonderful trying to pinpoint who dumped who, where she was and it made the discovery more moving.

The book moves seamlessly between the past and the present. Ivo and his mate Mal were inseparable. Now, Ivo refuses to see Mal. Something has happened which has destroyed all the relationships in Ivo’s life, not just with the girl and Mal, but also with his sister and his other mate Kelvin. It is devastating to watch Ivo struggle in the hospice without a support network other than his nurse Sheila. It reminds me of a Grey’s Anatomy episode in which a dying old lady surrounded by her ungrateful nieces and nephews notes that ‘people are better than no people’.

Amber was a fantastic supporting character. She is a bright spark in what is a terribly sad novel, a reminder of youth and life in a place of death. Amber’s mother is dying in the room next to Ivo’s. She and Ivo form a sort of friendship and help each other with their grief at the death around them.

I am going to give you a little spoiler, so skip this paragraph if you don’t want to know! It isn’t much of a spoiler, as it is obvious that Ivo is close to death. What isn’t immediately obvious is that Ivo doesn’t finish his game. X is the last letter in the story. I really loved it – it made me think of The Fault in Our Stars where Hazel’s favourite book finishes mid-sentence, just as life does.

This is one of those books I wouldn’t normally have picked up, but I am still thinking about it a week after finishing. It was just divine, beautifully written and incredibly emotional, capturing the fleeting yet meaningful nature of life. Read this book for its beauty. Read this book for its honesty.

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