Reviews /

Never Forget You

Authored by Jamila Gavin
Illustrated by Ellie Lonsdale
Published by HarperCollins Publishers

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Longlisted for the Young Quills Awards, 2023, Never Forget You is the story of four teenage girls who meet at boarding school. Set in England in 1937, the country is on the brink of war, and the girls, in their different ways, are about to play their part.

Dodo, Gwen, Vera and Noor are all from different parts of the world, with different interests, but they soon form a strong bond of friendship. Each girl has been sent to Barrowfield School because their parents are abroad. Noor is an Indian princess, who plays a fascinating musical instrument called a veena and also believes wholeheartedly in fairies. Dodo desperately wants to become an actress and slips off to the theatre whenever she can. Her parents spend time in Germany, and we read about them moving in the same circles as Nazi sympathisers. Vera is Jewish. She has escaped from Poland and is being brought up by her aunt and uncle in Paris. Gwen was born in India, where her parents still live, and is desperate to fly planes like her elder brother Eric.

Jamila Gavin cleverly weaves the narratives of the four girls throughout the book, so that we hear each girl’s journey from their point of view. She also builds up the tension and anticipation very well. We, as the reader, know which way the world is heading, but the girls obviously do not. It is a well-balanced story of the personal development of each girl’s character against the background of World War Two starting and continuing. It was interesting to see how each girl’s story overlapped, and I laughed and wept in turn alongside them.

I was fascinated to discover that the character of Noor was based on a real-life person. Jamila Gavin wanted to pay tribute to the life and work of Noor Inayat Khan, a British resistance agent in France during the Second World War. Noor in Never Forget You is the ‘captured essence‘ of the real-life Noor, whilst her friends are fictionalised characters. I now want to further investigate the life of Noor Inayat Khan as she was so well portrayed in this book.

This was a very moving and well told story. I have deliberately not given too much away about the story in my review, as I wanted the reader to discover what happens to each character as the story unfolds. It would be great to read alongside, a topic in upper KS2, on World War Two, or after it has been studied. Jamila Gavin is to be applauded for writing such a heartfelt and original take on an already well documented area of history. I look forward to reading more of her work.