Four years ago, when Bree decided to become a novelist, she’d done what she’d always done – obsessively planned, researched and plotter a no-fail manifesto. She’d read everything she could about writing, including a book by Stephen King, aka GOD. He’d apparently been rejected LOADS – so much so that he hammered a nail into the wall above his desk to spike all the “no” letters on. Delighted at the self-deprecation of it all, Bree also hammered a massive nail into the perfect plastering of her bedroom wall. And, month by month, year by year, the nail got cloffed up with her own swell of rejection letters.
Ha ha, just like Stephen King, she’d thought, spiking the first “no” letter and flipping it the middle finger.
Then more came, and more.
Holly Bourne is a new author to me, who I’ve not heard all that much about. However I’m glad that this was my first introduction to her writing. The writing style is really easy to read and that really helped me when trying to get into the mindset of this character, Bree, and how she felt about the situations she is put into. Also I feel like the style of writing really helped with showing the immaturity of some of the characters in places. But before we get into immature characters and my thoughts about the book as a whole, you probably want to know what this book’s really about.
Bree is a 17 year old outcast at school, wanting to be an author. Her second manuscript is rejected and she turns to her teacher Mr Fellows for support. He tells her that she needs to make her life more interesting in order for her writing to be more interesting. She takes this immediately to heart and starts a blog titled “The Manifesto on How to be Interesting” with some rules set out for herself. Her plan; infiltrate the popular gang, spill their secrets to the internet, and fall in love. Surely that couldn’t go wrong at all?
Well for one I know I’m not really the target audience for this book as it’s YA fiction, but I wanted to have a go at reading some more from this genre, and I wasn’t disappointed. A lot of the early portion of the book felt incredibly nostalgic for me as an outcast from school cliques. Bree is probably one of the most relatable protagonists I’ve ever come across, and the way that Bourne writes her is just incredible. From Bree’s suffering with self harm to her really intelligent wit, she comes across as a well rounded individual that can be admired for her strength. Yes she does silly things and you ask her “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?” and then there are times when you want her to be a real person so you can wrap your arms around her and tell her that it’s okay. Or tell her to get out of there before she does something stupid, because sometimes you just have to brace yourself and will her through.
So lets talk about some characters. There’s Bree, her best friend Holdo, the popular girls and Hugo. Hugo is one of my least favourite characters in the novel. He’s the stereotypical bad boy, lots of money, and thinks he’s God’s gift to women. I’m just incredibly glad that by the end of the novel he gets his just desserts. It’s what he bloody deserves. After all, who has an 18th birthday in a field behind their house, with live music and a DJ, in November? And who on earth calls a tent with cushions and beanbags the “Gash Palace”? The only answer to that is Hugo.
The character of Jass actually surprised me. I was ready to hate her from the outset. Popular girl, blonde, part of the clique that spread rubbish around about people and bitch. Constantly. However it was nice to see the other side. Where Bree infiltrates their clique it was lovely to see the other side. That, although there is this exterior, they are people too who are struggling with their own problems. And maybe sometimes we are too quick to judge people. Sometimes we rush into our judgements without considering how someone might actually be. Jass’ perfect relationship with Hugo also doesn’t turn out to be all it seems, and I felt so awful for her.
In addition to not knowing the full extent of the people we’re always around, we sometimes act irrationally without thinking about people and how they’ll react. Bree falls into this trap with her best friend Holdo. I’ve read a couple of reviews where people really didn’t like this character, but I really loved him. Almost to the point where I wished he and Bree would just get together already. But he’s an acne ridden teen with a passion for good movies and expensive wine. I’m not entirely sure what’s not to love. He’s funny and smart and I think that perhaps had things been different, Bree wouldn’t have ended up in as many situations as she did.
There are a few instances where I feel like the plot is a little overly dramatic or at least exaggerated. One example of this is a very whirlwind student/teacher romance. I liked both characters involved and thought that in any other circumstance they would make a wonderful couple, but a lot of the time I found myself a little anxious for them both and wondered how fast their relationship was actually moving. I wonder if this was just because there wasn’t a time frame given for much of the novel so I don’t know if this took place over a couple of weeks or a few months.
Overall however I enjoyed this book and have picked up another Holly Bourne’s novels “Am I Normal Yet?” which promises to be just as enlightening. I would just like to note that this book does deal with some rough topics; underage drinking to excess, inferred non consensual sexual intercourse, student teacher relationships and self harm. I can see how this book would be a really good gift for someone in lower secondary school, especially those who might be a social outcast themselves.
Total pages – 448
Total read time – 5 hours
Rating /10 – 6
Recommend – Yes. Especially for nostalgia; or fans of mean girls