Eighteen-year-old Debbie White lives on a dairy farm with her mother, Maeve, and her uncle, Billy. Billy sleeps out in a caravan in the garden with a bottle of whiskey and the stars overhead for company. Maeve spends her days recording her dreams, which she believes to be prophecies.
This world is Debbie's normal, but she is about to step into life as a student at Trinity College in Dublin. As she navigates between sophisticated new friends and the family bubble, things begin to unravel. Maeve's eccentricity tilts into something darker, while Billy's drinking gets worse. Debbie struggles to cope with the weirdest, most difficult parts of herself, her family and her small life. But the fierce love of the White family is never in doubt, and Debbie discovers that even the oddest of families are places of safety.
A startling, honest, laugh and cry novel about growing up and leaving home, only to find that you've taken it with you, Snowflake is a novel for a generation, and for everyone who's taken those first, terrifying steps towards adulthood.
This book...I loved it. I don't really know how else to say it and I feel no matter how much I put into this review, it won't do my feelings justice. But let's give it a go!
Firstly, I loved this book so much because I am also from Kildare in Ireland and I also studied at Trinity College. So before even starting the book, I already felt deeply connected to Debbie and the adventure she was about to embark on. From the first page, I honestly felt like I had been thrown back 10 years and I was also heading into Front Square for Freshers Week. The excitement, anxiety and confusion that Debbie feels on that faithful day could not have connected with me more and I honestly felt like I was reading an extract from my own diary!
Ok enough about me and how I felt I was like Debbie and onto the story itself!
Snowflake is the unapologetic and extremely raw telling of a girl going through an exciting, but equally very turbulent time in her life; she is 18, she is starting university in a city she doesn't know, she is trying to fit in and find herself and she is also dealing with some unique family circumstances back on the farm. Starting university in itself is a huge milestone and one that many of us struggle with. I honestly believe that your first year in university is one of the most defining times of your life. You make a lot of mistakes, you learn a lot about yourself, you learn the value of true friendship and also get the first taste of real independence. So Debbie dealing with all of this, as well as her uncle's drinking and her mum's mental health. That is a lot to take on for anyone, let alone a teenage girl!
The story addresses a lot of very heavy topics and ones that many people would never like to talk about; especially Irish people, we hate feelings. From depression, to substance abuse, to grief and loss, to mental illness, to low self confidence, this book covers it all and so much more and really shows how we don't know what goes on behind closed doors or what people are really dealing with.
The characters are just fantastic in this. I loved all of them and honestly felt like I was back in Ireland the whole time I read the book. From Billy's constant cursing, to Xanthe's kind but fragile heart, to the familiar phrases we use in Kildare, Nealon could not have captured the many walks of life that populate the Emerald Isle any better. I think Billy was my favourite though, he was a character that perfectly represented everything that is Irish, the good and the bad. From the hilarious storytelling, to the not so hilarious levels of drinking, I thought he was such an excellent character and a man I would love to meet in real life.
And then there is the writing itself and as an Irish person, I loved it! Not sure if many non Irish would totally get certain parts of it but Nealon perfectly captured the Irish tone of voice, wit, sarcasm and pessimism in her narrative. 'There's only room for one gobshite from the back-arse of nowhere' being a perfect example!
Look I could go on and on about this book, it's fantastic and I cannot believe it is a debut! From the writing, to the characters to even how the book finishes, I can't fault it. A big thank you to NetGalley for letting me read it before it is published. I am so excited to see what Nealon comes out with next!
IN 3 WORDS/PHRASES:
'There is no way to catch a snowflake. And I haven't met anyone who is able to catch a dream.'
Billy, I loved them all but I just found him hilarious but equally very deep and troubled.