Author: Juno Dawson
Publish Date: 26 January 2017
Genre: Realism, romance, historical, LGBTQ+
Audience: Young adult
(N.B. This book deals with heavy and potentially upsetting issues such as cancer)
I first saw ‘Margot & Me’ when somebody I follow on Twitter posted a picture of some LGBTQ+ reads that they had picked up from the library. I was also curious as I had seen and heard a lot about Juno Dawson in the media as she is a transgender activist, and I was eager to see what her writing style would be like. The novel wasn’t actually solely focused on a LGBTQ+ plot in the way in which I thought it would be, but nevertheless, ‘Margot & Me’ absolutely blew me away.
‘Margot & Me’ follows the story of 15 year old Fliss. As her mum is in remission from ovarian cancer, the two of them are moving in with Fliss’s grandma in a remote Welsh town for some peace. Fliss has never gotten on with her rather strict and hostile grandma, Margot, until one day she discovers Margot’s wartime diary in the attic. Not only does Fliss discover a whole new side to Margot, but she also comes across a deep secret of her grandma’s past…and later has to come to terms with another huge secret in her life.
One of the most remarkable features of ‘Margot & Me’ is truly Juno Dawson’s writing. Throughout the novel, her writing is effortless, and I felt incredibly transformed into the world of Fliss, despite it being set in 1998 – the year I was born! Not only that, but the alternation between Fliss’s reality and the chapters of Margot’s diary was seamless, with enough distinction between the two writing styles to feel transported from 1998 to 1941; it is incredibly hard to perfect writing styles from two points-of-view, and yet Dawson completely nails it. Without revealing any plot details, there is also an introduction of arguably another point-of-view later in the novel, and again, it feels utterly distinct in its style.
Something which I think absolutely makes a novel is noticeable character development, and again, Dawson perfects this. In both Fliss and Margot, the transformation of their characters and their relationship with each other is remarkable – at the beginning of ‘Margot & Me’, both characters are somewhat frustrating and irritable in their manners and priorities; this is one of the reasons why it took me a little while to fully immerse myself into the story. However, by the end, both Fliss and Margot are wonderful, lovable characters, once the story is revealed and the invisible barriers between them are broken down (for a number of different factors). The plot really lends itself to some stunning development, and there are lessons and morals hidden within ‘Margot & Me’ which anybody of any age could take away from.
I just briefly mentioned that it took me a little while to get into the novel, partially due to the irritable characters at the start, but also because there were a lot of different plot lines relating to Fliss which were being introduced. I’ll admit, it was a struggle to remember everything that was going on, and about 2/3 through I was questioning the relevance of a lot of the story lines. However, this all changed in the last section of the novel, and everything is indeed wrapped up satisfyingly, with surprisingly no loose threads. The plots feature numerous themes including romance, friendship, family, and self-discovery, and together it combines to create a perfectly rounded and developed image of Fliss and her world. In addition, the historical aspect of ‘Margot & Me’ is certainly not lost, and through the form of a diary, Dawson is able to touch on some more taboo subjects of the 40s including racism and sexuality, which makes for an incredibly interesting read. Astonishingly, amidst all of this inclusivity, Dawson manages to make room for some incredible feminist characters in both lead and side roles – I simply cannot commend the inclusivity of ‘Margot & Me’ enough.
In summary, ‘Margot & Me’ by Juno Dawson is a truly stunning read. This novel is bound to satisfy any readers of both YA and historical fiction, with utterly sublime writing from Dawson which explores themes of friendship, loss, and love. With strong, inclusive lead characters, and a gripping and intriguing plot, ‘Margot & Me’ is sure to leave you hanging off of every single word.