Published by Usborne!
Ever since finishing my degree and getting back into not only reading but Young Adult Fiction in particular, there’s been a lot of buzz around Holly Bourne’s ‘Spinster Club’ books that I’ve been absolutely drawn to. I care a lot about women’s rights and class myself as a feminist, so the idea of not just one book but a whole trilogy being dedicated to all things feminism, as well as the usual topics YA promises, like mental health and romance… Well, it was enough to have me putting my trust in the hype and purchasing them all in one go. Once I’d read the first instalment ‘Am I Normal Yet?’ and — spoiler alert — fell completely head over heels in love with it, I was afraid that, with the shifting in narrative, I would be disappointed by the next and then the next. But I cared just as much about Amber and Lottie’s story as I did Evie’s. And that’s why I awarded each book a five star rating. I am obsessed. (And counting, rather religiously, down to the release of the NYE-themed novella!)
‘Am I Normal Yet?’
Evie suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and anxiety. However, she’s nearly off her meds and on a quest to feel and be normal again post-complete mental breakdown. Now in college, Evie is adamant she doesn’t want to confide in her new friends Amber and Lottie about her illness for fear they’ll ditch her. Instead she keeps it from them, along with the fact all her problems might be coming back, putting all her focus into trying to bag herself a boyfriend. Nothing says well put together teenager like a blossoming romance, right?
Throughout reading ‘Am I Normal Yet?’ (and the rest of the series) I was practically screaming over and over again, ‘Where were these books when I was sixteen?!’ Whilst very realistically tackling the inner monologue of someone suffering from a mental health disorder, Holly Bourne also served up some serious relationship realness. Repeat after me, ladies and gents: Romantic and/or sexual relationships cannot fix you! For a long time, I genuinely felt that all my insecurities could be neatly remedied by someone else’s affection. But that’s just not how it works, kids. In fact, from past experience, it’s more likely your newly unearthed love life is doomed for failure if you’re not completely okay within yourself alone. Self-acceptance is so incredibly important, as is ridding the world of the notion we have to follow a certain formula in order to be ‘normal’ and fit in… What even is normal, anyway?
Evie’s journey meant everything to me, even as someone fortunate enough not to be able to entirely relate to her mental health struggles. Going through your teen years is tough and Holly Bourne absolutely nailed those more universal problems, too. And her portrayal of teenage boys was pretty spot on. Unfortunately they’re rarely as wonderful as fiction would have us believe.
‘How Hard Can Love Be?’
In the second instalment we get to hear about Amber’s story, who, admittedly I was probably least excited to read about initially but who, ultimately, and perhaps sadly, felt I related to most. Amber feels invisible, both to her family and the boys in her year at school. Everyone was victim to Lottie’s charm and, even with everything going on, Evie had managed to date three boys in one year. Amber, on the other hand, is unlucky in love and pretty fed up with her mates bringing their boy drama into their Spinster Club meetings. They’re strictly cheesy snacks and HP chat only, thank you very much. But then Amber is whisked off to California to spend time with her mum 2.0 and the boyfriend she can’t stand’s summer camp. It’s there that she meets swoon-worthy Kyle and, you know, has to ask how hard love can really be?
Honestly, I was completely blown away by how much I enjoyed and gained from Amber’s story. Although I’ve yet to meet a Kyle and have a whirlwind relationship quite like that, the concept of being that individual that just blends into the background is one I know so well. Not the least the mentality of questioning why the hell a boy I like would genuinely like me back. It’s a sad truth that I know oh so well and one that I’ve never seen so realistically done.
The feminist angle Amber brings to her’s and Kyle’s relationship is also something I hugely admire and that interests me, especially when the roles in any given relationship are always generally very set in stone. Amber begins to challenge those and Kyle is more than happy to so too, which is a serious bonus. FYI, men: if you want to be instantly attractive, give a genuine damn about feminism.
‘What’s A Girl Gotta Do?’
And, lastly, ‘What’s A Girl Gotta Do?’, which follows Lottie and her endeavour to address and capture all acts of sexism that she comes across within the span of a month. How does she do this? With a megaphone and cream pies, of course.
The thing is, that concept seems kind of comical, and to a degree it is. Lottie is the kind of girl you want to be, because she’s go lucky and fun and she doesn’t particularly care what anyone thinks. She is the very epitome of badass feminist. I’m going to go ahead and say it: my love for Lottie is up there with Hermione Granger as one of my favourite female book characters. She is unapologetically intelligent, sexy and a darn fierce lady. But Holly proves no one is superhuman. We get to see Lottie when she really, truly struggles, worn down by those who refuse to see the severity of her fight.
Honestly, I cannot rave enough about Holly’s impeccable characterisation across the board with our Spinster Club members. Sure, the three books don’t have a chance explore within the realms of intersectional feminism, but Holly tries bloody hard to tick as many valuable boxes as she can in terms of representation and absolutely nailing a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be a teenage girl. And I am all about that.
Even as a twenty-one year old who wrote nearly 12,000 words on feminism not six months ago, I have learnt so much from these three lovely ladies. And, you know, as a twenty-one year old who has lived out her teenage years and discovered a lot in terms of self-acceptance and who I am, even I felt incredibly inspired and like I could relate so easily to each of the girl’s struggles. ‘The Spinster Club’ series has snuggly settled itself into my favourite books and I urge everyone to read them.