Oy! Happy Tuesday!
The National Speech tournament has officially started! In a typical year, we’d be traveling to compete in the tournament live, but this year it will be on Zoom. My first round was earlier today and watching all of the humorous duets made me laugh so hard I was quite literally snorting. After a bit of an emotional roller coaster yesterday (I basically spent the whole day being emotionally wrecked by books, it was a blast) I needed a good laugh. So yay!
Anyway, let’s talk about one of the books that emotionally destroyed me, Solitaire by Alice Oseman. It was heart wrenching in every way possible and I don’t even know how to articulate my thoughts about it. But will that stop me? No. No it will not.
Author: Alice Oseman
Published July 31st 2014 by Harper Collins Children’s Books UK
References to suicide and suicide attempts, Suicidal ideation, Self-harm, Depression, Eating disorders, Obsessive-compulsive behaviours, Narrator has implied undiagnosed depression, Brief incidents of homophobia, Unchallenged misogyny and ableism
For more details and disclaimers, feel free to check out Alice Oseman’s website, where they have it all listed.
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. (from Goodreads)
My god, I don’t even know where to start with this one.
I guess I should preface this review by saying you need to check the content warnings before reading this book. Seriously, do it. There are a lot of the characters from the Heartstopper series in this book, but Solitaire is in no way like Heartstopper. Heartstopper is relatively lighthearted as whole but Oseman still tackles some incredibly serious topics. Solitaire is not lighthearted at all. Please, please, please check the content warnings before starting this book.
I really don’t think this book will be for everyone. And I know that no book in the existence of the entire universe can be for everyone, but I think Solitaire applies to that rule more than most. It is unpolished and wholly honest and deals and talks about all the unpretty, unrefined shades of mental health in a way that might resonate with some people and trigger others.
Was there much of a plot? No. Not really. Maybe a loose (and fairly predictable) one centralizing around the identity of Solitaire, but beyond that?? No. Not really. But for the most part, I was ok with that.
Even though the plot was loose at best, focusing more on characters and their relationships, I would have liked a better reveal when it came to the identity of Solitaire. Their identity plays a large role in the story and is definitely one of the driving forces, so when the whole reveal was just shoved in my face I was like woah, woah, woah where did this come from?? We are just going to ignore the concepts of suspense and proper setup then?? Ok…
But in ways that the plot was lacking, the honest storytelling and characters made up for it.
The book is narrated by Tori Springs. Tori is an unreliable narrator with implied undiagnosed depression who, throughout the novel, is allowed to be harsh and self deprecating and scared. The tone of the entire book is really dark and really, really raw. Brutally so. There is no romanticization whatsoever. Most of the narration is frank and quite often coated in self-loathing.
I cried multiple times. I cringed a couple of times (that might be from some of the 2014 references tbh). When it comes down to it, I’m not really sure how to feel about this book. Was it perfect?? Absolutely not. But the storytelling was so compelling that you couldn’t help but feel for Tori. I think I liked it…??
At the end of the day, I am at a loss as to how to rate this book. I don’t think there is a numeric value that I can assign to it that really does it justice, so I’m not going to. I definitely cared about Tori, and all the characters for that matter, which allowed me to enjoy the book as a whole. Yet there were still moments that were like woah (and I have no idea if it was a good woah or a bad woah). So yeah, I don’t really know.
I have no idea if this was helpful in terms of recommending (I’m literally begging you to check the content warnings if you decide to pick it up), but it was helpful for me to kind of get my thoughts out there so that’s something at least.
Also, I have a question for the masses: Does anyone know where in the timeline this fits?? Because i’ve looked up the charts and everything and I’m confused?? Is this happening during the events of Heartstopper 4 or after?? Or am I completely wrong??
Have you read this book?? What did you think? Have you read any of Oseman’s other books? Which are your favourites??