Book Reviews

New Books: Holly Bourne

We have three new novels by feminist author Holly Bourne available to borrow from our EXPRESS FICTION section

holly

Am I Normal Yet? (EXPRESS FICTION 823.92 BOU) was one of the most popular books at our World Book Night giveaway. Narrator Evie has just started college, and has already managed to find some new friends who share her scathing outlook on lad culture, double standards and the patriarchy in general. They call themselves the Spinster club, after their unmarried literary heroines Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson and Emily Bronte. Evie believes that her OCD and anxiety are finally under control- she still attends therapy sessions, but she’s off her medication and keen to prove to herself that she can be a ‘normal’ student, maybe even somebody’s girlfriend. Parties, alcohol, weed and sex are all ‘normal’ at college, but Evie can barely kiss a guy without pausing to scrape his germs off. Life at home is equally complicated- Evie’s mother is desperate for a normal child and bans words like “therapy” to shield her younger daughter from Evie’s influence. As the pressure mounts, Evie begins to relapse. Am I Normal Yet? has been very well-received by readers with mental health disorders. Evie is analytical, self-aware and armed with a wry sense of humour. Through her, Holly Bourne explains why it’s wrong to describe a tidy person as “so OCD”, and why the NHS’ one-size-fits-all approach to mental health is failing young people.

The second book in her Spinster club series, How Hard Can Love Be? (EXPRESS FICTION 823.92 BOU) is narrated by Evie’s friend Amber. Amber’s mum left her daughter behind when she moved to America to remarry. She invites Amber to spend the summer with her, only to put her to work at her new camp for teenagers. Amber rebels against the “Have A Nice Day!” attitude exemplified by former Prom King Kyle and foils her mother’s attempts to keep her at arm’s length, demanding an explanation (and hopefully an apology) for her disappearing act. Fellow camper Winnie senses Amber’s anger and resentment, and introduces her to the Tao of Pooh, an ancient philosophy that strangely mirrors the Disney classic! Pooh gets along with anxious Piglet, gloomy Eeyore and pompous Owl, even though they don’t share his passion for honey. Amber might be happier if she accepts her mother for what she is: adventurous, flaky, and a highly unsuitable parent! But Amber isn’t ready to give up on her mother entirely. Will be they reconciled by the end of the summer?  How Hard Can Love Be? features cameos from Evie and Lottie, the third member of the Spinster club, in the form of emails and Skype conversations; the third book in the Spinster club series, What’s a Girl Gotta Do? will be released in August.

holly bourne

Am I Normal Yet? is celebrated in nail art form by this bookish Instagram blogger

The Manifesto on How To Be Interesting (EXPRESS FICTION 823.92 BOU) features one of Holly’s trademark complex characters. Bree is successful at school, and believes she is destined to be a famous author. Armed with a list of six foolproof “ways to be interesting”, she plans to infiltrate the popular clique, make her blog go viral and finally get the recognition she deserves! There are a few flaws in Bree’s plan- for example, one of her surefire rules is “date the most popular boy in school”. He already has a girlfriend, so Bree is going to have to cause a scene… The Manifesto… does a great job of explaining why female solidarity is so essential to third- and fourth-wave feminism. We define ourselves partly by our likes and dislikes, but feminists believe we shouldn’t put other women down because of their different beliefs or interests. Women who enjoy stereotypically feminine things- like spending a lot of time on their hair and make-up- are usually portrayed as less intelligent than women who spend their time studying and less fun than girls who like gaming or sports. Those girls are criticised in turn for being too competitive, less nurturing, and less desirable to men (yes, even these days!) You Belong With Me by Taylor Swift is a great example: she wears short shorts, I wear tshirts, she wears high heels, I wear sneakers. Holly Bourne has inspired us to get out of the habit of judging women by the choices they make.

 

If you enjoyed Holly Bourne, try these:

“I do not think, sir, you have any right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.”

Jane Eyre was published back in 1847, but much of it is still sadly relevant today. In attempt to gain some independence, Jane bravely accepts the role of governess in an imposing, isolated mansion. Mr Rochester, the master of the house, is immediately bewitched by her, as she is not afraid to tell him what she really thinks! Jane refuses to believe that she is worth less than Rochester and his friends because she was born with less money. When it becomes clear that they cannot marry, Rochester asks Jane to be his mistress, which appals her. She chooses to leave rather than compromise her values, and later, refuses a marriage of convenience to a man she does not love. Jane’s unshakable self-belief sustains her until she can return to Mr Rochester on her own terms. You can find Jane Eyre in the BOOK ZONE 823.8 BRO.

jane eyre

Jane Eyre is available in board book form for your aspiring baby feminist!

We previously reviewed The Handmaid’s Tale in time for International Women’s Day 2015. Since then, it has been announced that Elizabeth Moss, who played the indomitable Peggy Olson on Mad Men, will play the role of Offred in an upcoming television series based on the book by Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale is intended as an ongoing series, so we might find out what happens after the novel’s ambiguous ending. However, some critics are already displeased by the news that a man has been chosen to write and produce THT. Fans of Bruce Miller’s series The 100 were outraged when a well-loved lesbian character was killed in a move that is all too common in film and TV. Luckily Atwood is listed as ‘consultant’ on the show, and will undoubtedly make certain that the script stays true to her feminist vision. You can read our review of The Handmaid’s Tale here.

elizabeth moss

The women of Mad Men are no strangers to sexism, but The Handmaid’s Tale is on another level altogether. Elizabeth Moss, pictured right, will play Offred in the upcoming adaptation.

Bend It Like Beckham (DVD LOBBY 791.43) is a hilarious story of friendship and rivalry by female writer/director Gurinder Chadha. Feminist themes are present throughout, and Chadha is unafraid to confront issues like integration, class, religion and sexuality. You can read Eleanor’s review of this smart, funny film here.

 

References

Idea Store Tower Hamlets Holly Bourne Available at https://flic.kr/p/C9WYGg (Accessed on 30/08/2016)

Demet (2016) 14 June. Available at http://www.imgrum.net/media/1270488719991338365_1498618676 (Accessed: 30/08/2016)

Roni LOL! A baby book about Jane Eyre Available at https://flic.kr/p/bHLnAg (Accessed on 30/08/2016)

Boyer, D Women of Mad Men Available at https://flic.kr/p/8xgLJN (Accessed on 30/08/2016)

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