French kids start dating earlier - which means they get their hearts broken earlier too, as we find out in this book. When I described the plot to notgettingenough, she expressed scepticism as to whether this really could be happening in a third or fourth grade class. But I'm pretty sure it's correct. Ainsi Va La Vie
is rigorously fact-checked, and I also remember my first meeting with my colleague Marianne's daughter. Five year old Ymelia told me she had, not just one, but two
boyfriends! So read on.
Lili, who's a conservative type, has been going steady with Hugo since kindergarten. (Please save your questions until the end. I'm just telling you what happens). But one day she arrives at school, and there's Hugo practicing with his football. Up walks leggy, blonde Valentine, the class vamp.
"Do you really want to take a shot at goal?" asks Hugo. "I mean, with those shoes..."
She does, which impresses him. "Valentine, if you didn't exist then we'd have to invent you!" says Hugo. Lili doesn't like the sound of this at all. It gets worse when they go in to class. Valentine brazenly passes a note to Hugo. She's trying to snatch him off Lili, right under her nose. And, worst of all, Hugo immediately sends a note back!!
The note gets passed from hand to hand, and ends up on Valentine's desk. The reader sees that she's disappointed. But, bitchy as ever, Valentine quickly readjusts her features into a beam of contentment. Lili, who's turned round too late, only catches the tail-end of this little vignette, and is completely taken in. In ten seconds, her whole world has crumbled into ashes.
She stumbles home after school, collapses on her bed and weeps inconsolably. She doesn't want any dinner - not hungry. The parents are a little concerned. Luckily, her friend Marlène turns up after a while.
"I HATE boys!" rages Lili. "I never want to be in love again!"
"I really like being in love!" says the practical Marlène. "Maybe you should try and find someone else. That creep Hugo was no way good enough for you."
She talks Lili round, and they start evaluating possible candidates. In the end they have a short-list of three. Marlène offers to sound them out, and comes back next day with a report. Karim wasn't interested; Simon feels too emotionally vulnerable after his parents' recent divorce; but Eliott looks promising. Lili suddenly decides she has to move on. She writes a note and passes it in Eliott's direction.
But... en route, it goes over Valentine's desk! She opens it and furiously tears it up. At recess, she goes up to Lili.
"What do you think you're doing?" she asks. "I'm really sweet on Eliott!"
"You think every boy in the class belong to you, don't you?" says Lili, who's so far from being her usual good-natured self that she hits Valentine. In a moment, the two girls are rolling around on the grass, punching and pulling hair. Suddenly Valentine can't take any more.
"I'm sorry, Lili!" she wails. "I'm such a bitch! Let me show you Hugo's note."
She's still got it in her pocket. When she uncrumples it, Lili sees that it reads
THANKS VALENTINE. BUT I CAN ONLY LOVE LILI.
Lili forgives Valentine in a split second, and gives her a big wet kiss. Then she goes off in search of Hugo and gives him an even bigger and wetter kiss.
"I love you, Hugo!" she sighs.
Hugo, who's got average male emotional intelligence, has missed the whole drama and is clearly thinking WTF. But Lili has been a little weird recently, and it's nice she's back to normal.
It's clearly no joke being a French eight year old. Scary stuff.