Rabén & Sjögren, 2013.
Reviewed by Mia Österlund in SBR 2014:1
Review Section: Fiction for Young Adults
Katarina von Bredow’s first young adult novel Syskonkärlek (Sibling Love, 1991) led to a heated debate because it featured an erotic liaison between siblings. Since then she has written several award-winning young adult novels for an enthusiastic readership. Von Bredow is a renowned spokesperson for girlhood, always foregrounding girls and their passions. Love in every shade and shape, including overt sexuality and forbidden relations, is her trademark.
Du & jag is von Bredow’s first attempt to focus on a boy protagonist. The book is the first part of a trilogy for tweens. Andreas, aged 12, is called ‘the professor’. But at school being cautious, obedient and intellectual is not a winning concept. His problems address the obstacles ordinary boys face in contemporary Swedish schools. Nonetheless, he is a sharp observer of the school dynamics, a trait that informs his love for Alicia who struggles with her urge to play cool. Alicia is not alone in being two-faced: Andreas’s father, who is having an affair with a former student, is duplicitous, too. With her vulnerable Bambi-looks in mind, Andreas calls her the ‘Roe Deer’, which underscores the contrast between her and his mother’s robust femininity.
Both his parents are teachers. The home is idyllic and supportive, which is unusual in von Bredow’s otherwise problem-ridden young adult novels from before the year 2000. When the infidelity theme is introduced, the image of the ideal family begins to crack. Still, this is no simple divorce story.
In her sensitive and engaging language, von Bredow lets her protagonist ponder how appearances affect all our relations. Why does everybody seem so false? How can Andreas’s father cheat and pretend everything is normal at home?
No tween novel is complete without a mystery plot – or so it seems – but here Andreas acts as a detective in order to find out more about his father’s two-timing. The next part in the series will focus on Alicia and will surely be as intriguing as this novel, and as rich in psychological depth and contemporary setting, where the Nordic landscape with its softening snowfalls and frozen fingertips add to this richness.