Goodreads synopsis: In case you’re wondering, this is not a love story. My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that’s all over now. Now there’s Solitaire. And Michael Holden. I don’t know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don’t care about Michael Holden. I really don’t.
I added this book to my to-read list because of this blog post about books that have the best depictions of mental illness. (Also, it’s very fitting that I’m posting this on World Mental Health Day! In honor of that, you can read a little bit about of one of my mental illnesses here.) I agree with what the author of that post said about how Tori’s depression feels very real. Tori does a whole lot of nothing, and that’s what depression tends to make you do. That being said, I still didn’t love this book.
My first impression of Solitaire was mixed. I really liked the writing style, but Oseman opened with a conversation about how if you don’t like Snape by the end of the series, you’ve “missed the point of Harry Potter,” which I think is insane. Snape sucks. But anyway, while Tori feels very, very real, she’s seriously annoying. She’s so judgmental about what everyone’s doing and wearing (e.g. constantly putting people down in her mind and to their faces because they’re dressed like “hipsters”). And she’s constantly whining about how everyone is so “fake” and nobody cares about the right stuff. Which is very teenager-y. But it’s dreadful to have to listen to that for 350 pages. I wanted to beg her to shut up and get some perspective. Which she does, at the very end, I suppose. She finally comes to this incredible realization that, oh my god, other people have feelings too! Really revolutionary. Like, I get that Tori was depressed. I know what it’s like to be the one who sucks the energy and the fun out of everything. But she was just rude about it, and I can’t sympathize with that.
My favorite part of the book was her brother Charlie. You don’t hear a lot about boys with eating disorders. I think something that bothers me about writing about boys with eating disorders is that it’s never “tragic and beautiful” like it is with girls. And in real life, it’s not tragic and beautiful. It’s messy and terrifying and complicated, like we see with Charlie. (For a pretty good female story about eating disorders, try Not Otherwise Specified.) I also liked the way his issues were revealed sort of slowly. I basically only cared about the parts of this book that were about him, to be honest.
What didn’t feel real to me, though, was basically the rest of the book. The whole Solitaire thing was weird. I find it really hard to believe that this group of kids could get away with all these pranks that probably required expert IT knowledge. And there was this whole magical element about it, about the school, that didn’t add up. Like, why did this random semi-rooftop place appear out of nowhere? And why is Michael so f**king strange? I kept waiting for there to be a big reveal about why he was so odd and why the boys from the other school were so weirded out about him, but there wasn’t. And then there was that weird part about how Michael and Tori fell asleep in the computer room, and I kept thinking, where is everyone else? What time is it? What on Earth is going on? Then there was the end, when Michael and Tori were standing on the roof of the school, which was burning down at the time, and they were just standing there talking and then kissing. While the school was on fire. Plus, all the characters drove me nuts with their fake-deep lines. Even Becky. Like every sentence had to be ambiguously meaningful. Especially at the end, for example, when Tori tells Lucas he “really did something beautiful.” What he did was BURN THE SCHOOL DOWN. That’s not beautiful. That’s criminal.
And then, of course the whole Solitaire thing is all about Tori, which is so typical and gross. I must quote an incredible review from Goodreads: “And this whole Solitaire thing was ALL FOR HER, BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS ABOUT THIS TORTURED SOUL WHO TREATS EVERYONE LIKE SHIT BUT THEY STILL LOVE HER, SO FUCKING REALISTIC.” Yeah, that basically sums up my opinion. The above average writing is really all that brings this from a 2/5 rating to a 3/5.
Also, this didn’t fit anywhere in this review, but I just have to say that at one point Oseman wrote the phrase “over and over on repeat,” and it’s still bothering me. Where was the editor on that one? “Over and over on repeat”! Repetitive and redundant. This book has above average writing except for that phrase. I’m never going to stop shaking my head over that.