Monday, 29 February 2016

Book Review: How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

How Hard Can Love Be? (Normal, #2)Title: How Hard Can Love Be?
Author: Holly Bourne
Series:  Normal, #2
Pages:  470
Publisher: Usborne Children's Books
Date of Publication: 1st February, 2016
Source: Bought
Synopsis from Goodreads: Amber, Evie and Lottie: three girls facing down tough issues with the combined powers of friendship, feminism and cheesy snacks. Both hilarious and heart-rending, this is Amber’s story of how painful – and exhilarating – love can be, following on from Evie’s story in Am I Normal Yet?

All Amber wants is a little bit of love. Her mum has never been the caring type, even before she moved to California, got remarried and had a personality transplant. But Amber's hoping that spending the summer with her can change all that.

And then there's prom king Kyle, the guy all the girls want. Can he really be interested in anti-cheerleader Amber? Even with best friends Evie and Lottie's advice, there's no escaping the fact: love is hard.


My Thoughts:
I am a huge fan of Holly Bourne, and so understandably I was super excited to read How Hard Can Love Be?. As soon as I finished my last exam, I headed down into town to Waterstones, where I bought myself two books (this and All The Rage) even though I am a poor student who can't really afford to be buying books (I did get a buy one get one half price offer so that makes it okay, right?). I started it as soon as I could, and quickly and easily fell back in love with the world and characters that Holly has created.

While it is the second in the Normal series, the books are not consequential. The first book, Am I Normal Yet?, follows Evie and her struggles with OCD and anxiety. This one follows Amber and the issues in her family, stemming from alcoholism.  Am I Normal Yet? hit me hard with the honest and unflinching portrayal of Evie's illness (you can read my review here) and this one once again made me consider things that I have never had to consider before. Two years ago, Amber's mum left her behind to move to America with her new husband, and Amber hasn't heard from her since. So Amber jets off to spend the summer with her, hoping to mend their broken relationship, and it is while she is on camp there, that she meets Kyle.

Don't be alarmed, this isn't one of those stories where a girl has all sorts of problems, then meets a boy who magically takes them all away, leaving everything fine and dandy. That just doesn't happen in real life.  Anyway.  The novel starts off with Amber, extremely hungover, boarding a plane and desperately trying not to vomit all over the children in front of her.  Therefore right from the start alcohol plays a pretty major part of the story.  As I'm living in student halls at the moment where it seems like everyone drinks far too much (the amount of vomit here is astounding sometimes), even though I myself don't drink very much, alcohol plays a pretty big role in my life.  There are people in my corridor and on my course whom if they carry on drinking the way they do, could quite easily be in the same position as Amber's mum in just a few short years, which made it all the more heartbreaking at times reading about how Amber was feeling at the brokenness of her family, and about her abandonment issues and mistrust and insecurity, all because of this.

Another huge issue that Holly expertly tackles in How Hard Can Love Be? is feminism.  This is a recurring theme throughout the trilogy so far and I expect it will only grow in the final book.  Despite Amber being in a whole different continent, she and Evie and Lottie still manage to hold their regular Spinster Club meetings, which they started in Am I Normal Yet?  These scenes are definitely some of my favourites, as Evie and Lottie set such good examples of female friendship which is so important, while at the same time discussing important feminist issues and just having a really fun time together, and so really it's just one big fat win for feminism. Yay!

The novel is set in a Camp America-like setting, and both the activities that they have to partake in and the characters Amber interacts with there are so much fun and were such a joy to read about.  I loved how the contrasts between American and British behaviour was brought out and Amber's uncertainty about being around the Americans, and how as she got to know them you could feel her loosening up.  I particularly loved Whinnie and I sincerely hope that she makes an appearance in future books.  Of course, Kyle was also fabulous, and I am very glad that he was because I noticed a distinct lack of genuinely nice male characters in Am I Normal Yet? (which was appropriate for the novel so it wasn't too big a deal, but it was good to finally read about one!).  Kyle also makes a great point about the label of 'nice guy' which I'd never considered before.  Finally I have a lot of love for one of the campers, Calvin.  He was just so cute.

How Hard Can Love Be? is a more than worthy follow up to the brilliant Am I Normal Yet? and I loved every minute of it.  I cannot recommend these books enough - they are always my go to recommendation whenever anyone asks for something good to read!  Holly Bourne is definitely on my auto-buy list and I can't wait for more from her and from the Spinster Club girls.  If you haven't read Am I Normal Yet? go out and buy yourself a copy and while you're there get this too.  You won't regret it!  All I have to say now is: Bring on book three! 


tl;dr: Thought-provoking, feminist, and at the same time both heart-breaking and hilarious. With a lovable cast of characters and a super-fun setting, you should just go out and buy it!



2 comments:

  1. I always take advantage of Waterstones' buy one get one half price offers, because what else is a student to do?! I've never read a boo that centres around alcoholism, and I'm pleased to know that this tackles another touch (and often taboo) topic, because I was scared it would focus too much on romance. Definitely need to pick this one up soon! Great review :)

    Charlotte @ Bookmarks and Blogging

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  2. Ah this was my favourite Holly Bourne book so far! And she release them so fast. I recently wrote a blog post just about Holly (http://readbyjess.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/im-excited-for-holly-bournes-next-novel.html) and am so excited for her 2 releases left for this year!

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