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In a nutshell: auld lang syne with the Spinster Club The end of What’s A Girl Gotta Do saw the three members of the Spinster Club heading off their different ways, now in this special short novel, Holly Bourne reunites them in the pressure cooker of a New Year’s Eve party: how have they coped? We discover that Lottie is planning to move to America, that Amber isn’t enjoying uni life as much as she’s been making out, and that Evie is struggling to support her boyfriend with his anxiety disorder. After an awkward start, they finally have one of those conversations that characterise their friendship, helping each other realise what is best for them, and giving themselves the confidence to go after it. Bourne understands her readership perfectly and writes for them with huge insight and affection, and this is a typically authentic, funny, and inspiring read. Readers will also enjoy Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven. ~ Andrea Reece
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | February 2016 Book of the Month Holly Bourne’s new novel demonstrates that with the right female friends, and a decent supply of cheesy snacks, a girl can get through anything. Amber is in America spending summer with the mum she hasn’t seen in two years. Outwardly Amber seems confident, brash even, but underneath she is full of insecurities, like most teens, and still deeply hurt by her mother’s decision to leave her. A romance with gorgeous Kyle – also not what he seems – helps her see herself and the world differently but her real support comes from best friends Evie and Lottie via their cheery, empowering Skype chats. Well-written and thoughtful, this has a thoroughly authentic twenty-first century teen voice and lightens serious issues with humour. ~ Andrea Reece Readers will also enjoy Bourne’s Am I Normal Yet? in which Evie takes the central role, and Ann Brashares The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.
August 2016 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Feminism | Friendship | Fighting back |Inspirational and insanely funny, this third and final book in the Normal trilogy is a motivating must-read manifesto for young women, not to mention a powerful wake-up call for detractors of feminism. When two men subject Lottie to threatening sexual harassment, she feels embarrassed, afraid and, most of all, outrage at the male entitlement that led them to believe “my body was theirs to comment on”. With the backing of her college FemSoc and Spinster Club friends, she decides to (literally) call-out every single instance of sexism for an entire month by honking on a clown’s horn, and so the Vagilante Project is born. To help the Project gain ground, and to document her experiences, Lottie reluctantly recruits aspiring filmmaker Will. While he might be a “cocky jerk”, Will’s talent (and hipster good looks) can’t be denied and the campaign soon attracts major media attention. But the Project’s stresses take their toll on both her mental health and grades as her Cambridge University entrance interview looms. If that wasn’t enough, national coverage of the Vagilante Project brings out the trolls, and Lottie has to dig deep to stay sane and keep all her goals in her grasp. For me, one of this novel’s highpoints is its incisive exploration of cognitive dissonance. For example, Lottie knows the social norm of having hair-free legs is a patriarchal imposition, but it takes great guts to ditch the razor and go au naturel. That such issues are handled with both insight and humour makes this novel all the more authentic, and Lottie’s story is full of madly funny moments, such as when she mimics a man-spreader on the tube, or when she staggers from Will “like some pissed-up feminist gingerbread man” because she doesn’t need a male companion to walk her home. Packed with wit, warmth, honesty and passion, this novel will surely forge a path of empowerment for legions of young women (we could do with a real-life Lottie realising her ambition to become Prime Minister), while eliciting more than a few belly laughs along the way. ~ Joanne Owen
August 2015 Book of the Month Evie is starting sixth form college and like any normal young person wants to fit in and make friends, and she’d like a boyfriend too. It’s challenging for Evie though because she’s also coping with anxiety disorder, something she’s determined to keep secret from even her closest new friends, Amber and Lottie. Teenage girls, as anyone who lives with or indeed is one will know, are some of the funniest and brightest people around and this is a wonderfully vivid story of female friendship in all its glory. The descriptions of Evie’s condition leave the reader in no doubt as to the depth of her suffering, but this is a positive, often very funny, and life-affirming read. ~ Andrea Reece
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