No Heroes by Anna Seidl (reading copy) - An ordinary schoolgirl with a carefree bunch of friends, Miriam's just embarked on her first relationship with her loving boyfriend Toby. She lives with her dad and she has a good relationship with her grandparents. All this ordinary happiness is shattered when one of Miriam’s schoolmates goes berserk one day at school with a handgun and kills several pupils and teachers. Toby is shot right in front of her. Shock, grief, bereavement, terror—Miriam and her friends run the gamut of emotions in the days, weeks and months following the shooting. But the worst emotion of all is guilt. "Is it our fault?" is the haunting question that tortures Miriam as she tries to piece her life together again. From Goodreads.
I really enjoyed This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp, so when I heard about No Heroes by Anna Seidl, a book that looks at the aftermath of a school shooting rather than focusing on the shooting itself, I was really intrigued. Unfortunately, I wasn't a fan of this book.
It's a perfectly normal day at school - until Miriam and her class mates hear gunshots. Loner Mathias Straudt is shooting at teachers and pupils. Hiding in a cubicle of a toilet with her best friend, Miriam hears a boy outside the cubicles - a boy they tried to get to come with them, but was frozen in fear - shot and killed. Her boyfriend Toby is also killed. In the days, weeks and months that follow, Miriam and her friends try to come to terms with what happened, and why, whilst overwhelmed with grief, fear and guilt. What if Mathias' rampage was their fault?
This is a German novel that has been translated into English, and unfortunately, the translation is a little clunky and awkward. I believe I've only read one other translated novel, Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff, and perhaps I was spoilt by how good a translation it was. Maresi could have been written in English, the translation was so good. I kind of expected the same level of knowledge of the English language with No Heroes, too, but it wasn't brilliant. It's not so much that it didn't make sense, it made perfect sense, but it was the choice of synonyms that made it so clunky, or words used in slightly the wrong context. It just didn't flow as well as it could, and it kept nudging me out of the story.
The story itself was quite a let down. There wasn't much of a plot, it was more a novel of Miriam's internal thoughts and feelings. Not a huge deal happened other than her coming to terms with the shooting and the grief over the death of her boyfriend. It was also very repetitive. Miriam kept coming back to the same thoughts, the same fears, the same worries time and again. I can understand this is probably quite realistic, but it doesn't make for an interesting novel. It was constantly, "Oh, I miss Toby! I need him! I can't go on without Toby! How can anyone go on? What's the point? There is no point. We're all going to die, so why bother trying? Nothing is the same, nothing matters any more." These are Miriam's thoughts almost constantly throughout the novel, until she starts to make a breakthrough, but even then she's still repeats some of the things she thought previously.
And, I don't know if it was the story or the translation, but I didn't feel anything from it. I didn't really feel anything from Miriam; it's all internal really, so we get what she's thinking, but apart from hiding away in her room under the duvet, we don't really see her expressing her emotion in any real way. It's all about what's in her head, and I simply couldn't emotionally connect with her.
All of this coupled with very little plot, with very little going on at all... I just really didn't get on with it at all. No Heroes wasn't for me, unfortunately.
Thank you to Little Island Books via Foyles for the reading copy.
Published: 17th March 2016
Publisher: Little Island Books