on 31st July 2014
"I don't ever remember not being serious. As far as I'm concerned, I came out of the womb sprouting cynicism and wishing for rain."
My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year 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.
This book may not be a love story but it is one I fell in love with almost instantly. The blurb for Solitaire is rather sparse and despite not knowing very much about it, I was incredibly eager to read it. After rushing out to buy a copy the day it was released, it has taken me a few weeks to try to get my head around it to form some kind of coherent review.
Solitaire tells the story of Tori Spring, a high school student who spends her days killing time at school and her nights messing around on her blog whilst watching movies. With no apparent ambition, Tori is drifting though life. She’s not as involved in a social life as she has been in the past and her friends are drifting away. Her brother is slowly recovering from an incident last year and Tori feels as if her existence is a nuisance to her mother. And then there is Solitaire. Solitaire is a mystery with the effects being felt all around the school. Small pranks growing and escalating in their intensity – Just what is Solitaire’s purpose and who are the perpetrators?
This is a book where the plot is very much secondary to everything else going on. Tori is a character I felt an instant connection with – the very first conversation we readers get to observe is one regarding non-canon pairings in Harry Potter (Seriously? There are people who ship Drarry?!). And this is just the first of a thousand pop-culture references liberally sprinkled throughout the book. Sherlock’s bromance with Watson, the tear inducing Beauty and the Beast, Pokemon Battles and so many more. Not to mention Tori’s rather negative relationship with Pride and Prejudice.
I liked Tori because she was different. She’s not by any means the typical girl so often portrayed in young adult literature. Even her views regarding Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy’s relationship aren’t what you would probably expect. That said – I think this makes her a more relatable character than most I’ve read before. There were so many times in this book where I was almost beside myself with how much Tori and I had in common – despite being from different sides of the world and a decade between us in age.
I loved getting to see Tori’s relationships and how varied they were. Her best friend Becky seems to be Tori’s opposite and yet they have a certain kind of camaraderie which felt believable. Charlie, Tori’s brother, has been though a lot of recent times and has his issues. Their sibling bond was another of the great parts of this book – as is how she is with her other brother Oliver (Cardboard living room tractors are the best!). And I can’t forget to mention Michael Holden. He is one of the most deliberately random bordering on absurd characters I’ve read in a while. And yet there is nothing about him that’s unbelievable. He would fit perfectly into Tori’s life if she let him.
As the book goes on we get to see just how unhealthy Tori’s solitary life is. She’s her own worst enemy in so many ways and is constantly second guessing everyone else. She doesn’t trust her own feelings and as result believes others don’t understand how they feel either. She’s a bit of a mess. And whilst I love her sarcasm, her constant cultural references and her love of her brothers – I’m not sure she’s a person I would like if we had met. As we get deeper into the novel and get to know Tori better, I still liked reading about her but I found her behaviour frustrating. It wasn’t necessarily in a bad way – I was hooked on this book until the last page.
The Solitaire part of the novel interested me a lot less than Tori and her teenage behaviour. It was a bit mysterious but I had guessed parts of what was going to happen. No – the real story in this book is about relationships, emotions and trying to work out what life is really about. The teens in this book all have problems with some of them being more serious and that was another reason why this book was so realistic and relevant.
Solitaire is a great novel about nothing and yet everything all at once. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book with just this many pop-culture references or funny insights into life. Written in such an honest and realistic way, it left me wanting more. If this is what Alice Oseman can do at 19, I can’t wait to see how she matures as a writer in the future!
Solitaire: Patience Kills…