April hates men. And who can blame her after what her ex did to her and her work at a sexual advice service. After her latest guy dumps her, she becomes Gretel – a woman who plays it cool and doesn’t get too ‘needy’ around men.
Trouble is Gretel seems to have met a genuinely nice guy in Joshua and he may be a keeper so what will happen if he finds out she’s been lying to him – not only about her name but the type of person she is.
In this character-driven novel, Bourne has created a believably vulnerable and angry protagonist in April who shares her sarcastic take on how women should act around men. It is worth reading for its emotionally raw insight into the traumatic effects of sexual assault.
As a bestselling author of a book that inspired a generation of twenty-something women to make the most of their lives, Tori Bailey is an example to other women. But now in her thirties, Tori’s life isn’t as rosy as people imagine. Not only has her boyfriend of six years not proposed, he doesn’t even seem to be interested in her anymore, and her publishers are hankering for a new book. Throw in the fact that all of her friends are getting married and having children, and Tori is beginning to question if it’ll ever happen for her.
YA superstar Holly Bourne’s debut in contemporary fiction has a very meaningful core and addresses perfectly the minefield of being in your thirties and the pressure to have it all. At times, the narrative is unsettling and at its centre is a very challenging relationship, and though Tori may be a somewhat difficult figure to like, she brilliantly demonstrates the conflict of her situation.
There are laughs along the way, not least in the character of Dee, Tori’s best friend, but romance here is problematised as part of the central storyline, so don’t expect an epic love story. Whilst I appreciate that the novel does something different and we have a very unique coming-of-age for the female character, for me the story lacked impetus. Similarly, I found the storyline somewhat strung out and the finale slightly underwhelming, but this is certainly a novel that does things its own way and offers an alternative narrative that is frank and unflinching. (JC)