holly bourne

Book Review: Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes?

Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne – Published August 9th 2018 by Usborne Publishing Ltd

I cannot believe it’s been four months since I read this book! Again, this will only be a quick review. I found this book at my local library and having read Holly Bourne before, I knew I’d enjoy it. It’s about mental health, too (as many of her books are), so that was another reason I picked it up.
Olive has had problems with her mental health for years but refuses to be told her diagnosis. She goes through phases of extreme ‘happiness’ (otherwise known as mania) followed by severe depressive episodes. When she’s offered a free place at an experimental new treatment centre, she is more than happy to accept. She doesn’t know exactly what’s wrong with her, but she’s desperate to find the cure.
While at the facility – called Camp Reset – Olive makes some interesting friends. She also finds herself in a manic state without even realising it, and focuses all her energy on an innovative algorithm she believes can cure or prevent mental illnesses. Of course, this leads to a huge crash, which prevents Olive from partaking in the grand finale of her and her friends’ plan to spread happiness.
Throughout her treatment, Olive goes through a lot of things. She faces rejection and learns to help others. She also begins to work on her attitudes towards herself.
The main thing I’ve got to say about this book is the relatability of it. The thoughts that Olive has, and the way they cycle round her head on repeat, were incredibly close to home. When something bad happens, her first reaction is to blame and hate herself. I related to her character so, so much in this way.
I also really liked how Olive is not the stereotypical ‘nice’ girl. She’s not quiet and quirky and lovable. She’s a bit of a bitch sometimes, quite frankly. But mental illnesses don’t give you a free pass to being a jerk. They often make people more of a jerk, honestly. It’s important to acknowledge this. It’s important to think about how your actions affect others, even though it’s hard when you don’t care about yourself or anything at all.
This was a fantastic portrayal of mental illness, and of recovery. It didn’t have a perfect ending – Olive acknowledges how she’s got so much farther to go, and that her journey to recovery is only just beginning. She also learns how there is no easy cure, which I think people forget sometimes. 4.5 stars!

Book Review: The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting

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The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting by Holly Bourne – Paperback, 448 pages – Published August 1st 2014 by Usborne Publishing

I fell in love with Holly Bourne’s writing after reading Am I Normal Yet? and immediately decided to check out some of her other work. Hence me reading this novel.

The general idea of this book is Bree trying to become “interesting” enough to write something that publishers won’t reject. She decides the way to go about this is by infiltrating to posse of popular girls at school, while anonymously blogging about it the whole time.

Bree has her issues; she’s always been a bit of a loser, she’s kind of falling in love with her English teacher, she has way too many rejection letters, and she self harms when she feels low. She has to make a lot of sacrifices for the sake of her new blog, one of which is her best friend, Holdo. She reminds herself that “it’s all material” while she acts like a bitch, spends hundreds of pounds on new clothes and hairstyles, befriends with queen-bee Jassmine and even when she sleeps with Jass’s boyfriend. Besides, her crush told her she wasn’t interesting enough, so surely this is what she’s supposed to be doing?

But things get a bit more complicated than she first anticipated, and things end up worse than before for Bree. Yeah, she’s spent time with her mother and she’s become a social princess, but things start to fall apart. There’s a sex tape, and her teacher’s realised his mistake, and she can’t help but cut herself like she’s always done… But this time, she takes it a little too far.

I love the way Holly Bourne incorporates painfully real issues into her novels, mainly revolving around mental health and feminism. Bree’s issue with self harming isn’t looked down upon, or brushed aside, or made into the main plot. Instead, it’s just part of the story, like it is for most people who struggle with it.

My only real problem with this book is that I just can’t believe that a makeover can get you into the posse of populars. Like, really? If I got a haircut and some new lipstick, would I really become best friends with the most popular girl in school? I highly doubt it. I did like how Bree actually became rather attached to the girls, and how she realised that they really are just normal people underneath all that bitchiness and foundation.

This was a nice, easy read though, and I did enjoy it. It combats some common thoughts that go round teenagers’ heads, and although it is a little cheesy in some places, I think it’s mostly rather realistic. Although it isn’t quite one of my favourite books, I do think The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting could just about earn 4.5 stars from me.

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Book Review:Am I Normal Yet?

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Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne (Normal #1) – Paperback, 434 pages – Published August 1st 2015 by Usborne

Holly Bourne writes about two of my absolute favourite topics: feminism and mental health.

So Evie is a teenage girl, who desperately wants to be “normal”. She’s been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and OCD, and is trying so, so hard to prevent them from ruling her life anymore.

Evie combats a number of issues in this book, such as the stigma around mental health, and the misuse of diagnoses (eg. “I like things neat, I’m so OCD”). She’s such a real character, who makes mistakes and upsets people and keeps secrets. She shares her bad thoughts, her rituals and her worries with us, which makes this book so fantastically relatable for people with similar thoughts.

Like everyone else suffering with mental illnesses, Evie has a ton on her plate. Recovery, boy problems, friendship problems… And her desperation to just be normal for once, which leads her into a teenage guys bedroom and triggers a horrific relapse.

This doesn’t have a typical happy ending. Yes, things do get better at the end, but Evie doesn’t magically beat her illnesses or avoid a relapse altogether – because that’s just unrealistic. Mental health doesn’t work like that. Recovering from a mental illness is a rollercoaster, with about a thousand loops.

The girls – the Spinsters as they decide to call themselves – are all fabulous too. They talk about all the things that people don’t talk about enough, including periods and the difference between mental health care for males versus females. I think these are all such important topics, and are covered fantastically in this novel from a teenage girl’s viewpoint.

Overall, I think this is just such a wonderful, important book. For those of us who are struggling with mental health issues, it helps us to feel less alone, and lets us know that our problems are not uncommon. For other people, the more “normal” people, Am I Normal Yet? provides an accurate insight into the mind of someone who’s not having such a great time mentally. I really loved this book and all the topics it includes. A new favourite of mine, with 5 stars.

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