I started this book last night and I just finished reading it. To say I sped through the book is a gross understatement. I’ve had this book for a while now but not got around to reading it, but I think I waited for the perfect time. It’s definitely a summer read and for anyone who’s into the new wave of Y/A literature, try this. It will leave you conflicted for sure, a part of me enjoyed certain elements but the majority was left unimpressed and a bit angry to be honest.
The story focuses on seventeen year old aspiring writer Bree and a blog she starts entitled ‘The Manifesto on How to be Interesting’. She goes through a my fair lady-esque makeover and at the prompting of a teacher -who she happens to have a crush on – decides to live a life which is worth writing about. Throughout the book we see her deal with getting through high school / sixth form and her rise into popularity as part of her project. We see Bree question her morals and boundaries as she gets sucked deeper and deeper into trying to be more ‘interesting’ and losing herself in the process. The book also highlights important issues like bullying, self harm, depression and consent.
What I enjoyed:
- I think the major positive of this book was Bournes writing, it was easy to follow and had me turning the pages. I would definitely read another of Bournes books due to her style, despite disliking this book in particular.
- Holdo – Bree’s so called best friend, a huge fan of Catcher in the Rye, giving himself his own Holden Caulfield inspired nickname was probably the most likeable character. I feel like he was the only male character with any sense of personality and intelligence, despite being written as a know it all, movie buff. All the other male characters were either undeveloped, predatory, inconsistent or simply misogynistic idiots to be frank.
- Use of the blog post format, as a blogger myself *obviously* I appreciated this little nod.
What could have been improved:
- Bree wasn’t a likeable character. I can’t say it any simpler, I just couldn’t relate to her at all, she prides herself on being *different* from her peers but is just as vapid and shallow as them. The way she treats everyone around her puzzles me, and I just found it hard to sympathise with her as all the trouble she gets into – minus certain parts – is her own doing.
- Cliched / Cringy – not sure how else to put it, but a lot of the book was a bit cliched, think of the british version of Mean Girls and you’ll get there. The book was so focused on depicting teenage life and social norms but I felt like it was trying too hard honestly.
- Representation of Feminism – It was apparent within a few chapters that this was a main theme or message in some way but it was so badly done. Bree is a really judgemental person, constantly analysing the way girls around her act and being hyper critical of their choices. She holds herself up as a beacon of ‘self respect’ yet then does everything she detested in other girls? I don’t know if it’s just me but I’m sick of the overdone trope of girls hating on other girls.
- Representation of Self Harm / Mental Illness – Bree’s self harm is established 3 pages into the book, I’m not even joking. Now there’s nothing wrong with this, but I feel like the book didn’t delve deep enough into the issue but approached it at a surface level almost. It felt like a throw away plot, something to add more angst rather than a complex part of the story. As someone who has suffered with these issues before, I really didn’t appreciate the way it was brushed over.
Overall, I just couldn’t bring myself to fully enjoy this book, while I appreciate the sentiment behind Bournes choices to include so many issues. I would have preferred that there was more time spent on developing characters and respecting the material rather than shoving it all in to 450 pages with no clear flow.
Have you read any of Holly Bournes other books? If so, how did they compare to this one?
Until next time,