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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Just Like Tomorrow
(Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow)

Faïza Guène

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow

Title: Just Like Tomorrow
Author: Faïza Guène
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 142 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow - US
Just Like Tomorrow - UK
Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow - Canada
Kiffe kiffe demain - Canada
Kiffe kiffe demain - France
Paradiesische Aussichten - Deutschland
  • French title: Kiffe kiffe demain
  • UK title: Just Like Tomorrow
  • US title: Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow
  • Translated by Sarah Adams

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Our Assessment:

B+ : appealing, well-done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Entertainment Weekly A- 7/7/2006 Lisa Schwarzbaum
FAZ . 18/3/2006 Joseph Hanimann
The Guardian . 20/5/2006 Diane Samuels
New Statesman . 22/5/2006 Lynsey Hanley
The NY Times Book Rev. . 23/7/2006 Lucinda Rosenfeld
San Francisco Chronicle . 16/7/2006 Christine Thomas

  Review Consensus:

  Impressed, and recommend it

  From the Reviews:
  • "Her access to authenticity is matched by a great eye and ear for the funny, infuriating, and hopeful about young womanhood and cultural welter." - Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

  • "Er bietet eine gelungene Innenschau dazu, wie es sich da lebt: ähnlich wie anderswo, nur drücken die kleinen Mühseligkeiten oft mehr als die großen. (...) Die lebendige und immer ironisch federnde Erzählweise ohne Zerrbilder macht den Roman auch für deutsche Leser anregend, zumal die hervorragende Übersetzung den Eindruck verschafft, die Handlung spiele trotz der zahlreichen Versatzstücke aus dem französischen Alltag direkt vor unserer Tür." - Joseph Hanimann, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "There's a wicked wit at play and lots of sharp perceptions. When I started reading I wondered if I would at some point find the full-on force of Doria's voice wearing. It is a testament to both author and translator that Doria not only takes the reader with her, but actually allows them inside her head and into the world she inhabits. What might turn out to be a diatribe with no progression reveals itself instead to be a sly evocation of a reject of a girl growing up, fuming and eye-rolling, into a rather more self-valuing young woman." - Diane Samuels, The Guardian

  • "That the story takes place entirely on this cheerless estate and yet manages never to be depressing is a testament to Guène's lightness of heart and belief not only in her own potential, but in that of anyone stuck in a place that stifles it. (...) Guène's writing voice brims over with Doria's abrasive but bruised personality; the result is that you want to reach inside the book and tell her everything is going to be all right. But it's also refreshing that at no point does she force a positive-thinking message down the throats of her readers" - Lynsey Hanley, New Statesman

  • "What makes it appealing is its sharply drawn profile of a precocious adolescent. (...) Gučne's slang expressions, paired with the use of the present tense, occasionally make this read more like a series of adolescent diary entries than a novel. Yet her dry wit elevates the book above juvenilia." - Lucinda Rosenfeld, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Using Doria's perspective allows Guène to innocently invert French intellectual elitism, especially refreshing when Doria comments on the potential of being called out for reading certain kinds of "pulp on the metro" unless you "cover it with brown paper" instead of being lauded for reading for pleasure. It also allows exposure of the literal and metaphorical divide between Parisians and poor immigrants. (...) Even if the book doesn't quite pull off its aim, it makes a strong impression. Guène's sardonic yet positive narrator has an enduring ingenuousness and accessibility that are as disarming as the worlds to which she allows us access." - Christine Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow (UK title: Just Like Tomorrow) is narrated by Doria, a fifteen-year-old girl living with her mother in a housing estate in the suburbs of Paris. Dad returned to Morocco, to marry another woman because Doria's mother didn't bear a son, and so it's just Doria and mom.
       Mom works (for a while) cleaning rooms at a motel, but though they live in a welfare state -- with food stamps, social services frequently checking in, and free therapy sessions with a Madame Burlaud for Doria -- they still have trouble getting by. They rely on charity, often can't pay the grocer's bill, and most of Doria's (definitely not stylish) clothes are from the charity store. Doria isn't a very good student either -- failing pretty much all her classes except drawing, and destined at the end of the year not to repeat the year (there's no space for her) but to be shoved off to a vocational school. But then, her mother can't even read (though she does eventually take a literacy class).
       In short chapters covering about a year, Doria relates her life. It's not an angry diatribe against the horrors of banlieue-life, or self-pitying wallow in the unfairness of it all. Rather it's a sympathetic account of teenage life -- with all its attendant concerns, dreams, misunderstandings, and fears. Given Doria's situation it's not really typical, but then whose life is ? Guène manages to present her protagonist in a way that it is easy for almost anyone to relate to her -- universals trumping particulars, but with these particulars also opening the reader's eyes to a different world and set of circumstances.
       Doria is angry and frustrated, but not quite as resigned as her mother. The girl is at an age when she still can't quite believe that it all comes down to fate -- though she's well aware of the possibility (and the excuse it affords):

Fate is all trial and misery because you can't do anything about it. Basically no matter what you do you'll always get screwed over. My mom says my dad walked out on us because it was written that way. Around here, we call it mektoub. It's like a film script and we're actors. Trouble is, our scriptwriter's got no talent. And he's never heard of happily ever after.
       Still, she sees possibilities. After all, at least: "Our generation's lucky, because you get to choose who you're going to love for the rest of your life. Or the rest of the year." Yes, she's seen too much for there not to be a touch of cynicism to many of her observations, but fundamentally her outlook remains optimistic -- she sees some (limited) hope at the end of the tunnel.
       When she's down, it often seems to boil down to:
For me, it's just kif-kif tomorrow. Same shit, different day.
       (By the end, however she's able to put a slight variation on that -- giving the book its French (and American) title.)
       Doria feels lost and alone, abandoned by her father and with few friends. She can handle the telephone service being cut off, but:
I'm telling you, if they cut off our TV like they did with the phone, that'd be too much.
       The darker side of life around Doria doesn't seem terribly threatening: the son of a family friend is sent to prison for a year, and there's another friend who sells drugs (before slowly settling down). There's almost no violence in the book, either, and little fear of crime. If not entirely harmless -- the boy in prison is certainly changed by his incarceration -- Doria doesn't dwell on much of this, living very much in her own world and mind. This is, of course, part of what makes her like any other teenager, though it does also give the book an odd, almost too-innocent feel.
       There are also almost no scenes from school, neither the regular school where she does terribly, nor the vocational school where she seems to be able to hold her own, and there are few scenes of her relating to others (especially other girls -- even the girl she babysits and clearly is close to is barely described). Still, as presented from her perspective, her interaction with the social workers, her therapist, and even her friends is authentic -- one thing going through her mind, another thing coming out of her mouth -- and Guène does that very capably (the familiar approach ("I'm telling you,", Doria writes) also helps).
       The cultural references -- the mix of traditional North African and modern French (with a good dose of international pop culture) -- and the resulting confusion of identity are also well presented. Clothes are a constant problem, since Doria's mother can't afford practically anything other than hand-me-downs, and TV remains the ultimate escape. Doria is still at an age of wildest dreams, too: "Often, I imagine I am part of the Ingalls family from The Little House on the Prairie". She even wonders:
For all I know, Mme Burlaud isn't really a shrink. Maybe she works in TV and all the bullshit I tell her feeds into her sitcom.
       The success of Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow comes from Doria's authentic-sounding voice. Guène creates a convincing character, whose teenage mind and preoccupations cover many of the book's weaknesses, such as the many incidental stories that are touched upon but never really developed -- but then, that's exactly how a teenager living completely in her own world (i.e. most of them) would likely perceive and relate (and relate to) the world around her.
       The tone, and Doria's voice, are almost perfect throughout (though given how expressive she is, one has to wonder why she didn't have just a bit more success at school), with Guène only very occasionally trying a bit too hard:
Outside, it was gray like the color of our building's concrete and it was drizzling in very fine drops, as if God were spitting on us.
       But for the most part there is little sustained self-pity (just typical adolescent bursts of it).
       Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow is a quick, entertaining, and very appealing teenage-story. Doria's life isn't particularly exceptional, and little that is very dramatic happens, but that's part of the novel's appeal, in showing that even very ordinary life is, in it's own way, extra-ordinary and interesting. Certainly worthwhile.

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Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       Faïza Guène is a French author.

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© 2007-2010 the complete review

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