Solitaire by Alice Oseman: Book Review

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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 was quite impressed by this novel. Not just because it was written by a 19 year old, but because it  just a remarkable book no matter how young or old the author happens to be. (Of course I am amazed by Alice Oseman’s young age and, I admit, a little jealous. Well, maybe a lot jealous). This is a very smart novel. It has just the right mixture of funny and serious, and really makes a point about the lives of teenagers, and bloggers, today. Some of which are like the main character Tori Spring, a sarcastic pessimist who dislikes making friends and spends more time on her blog than with the few friends she actually has – well, in the beginning at least.

I liked Tori as a character. The way Oseman wrote her was funny and relatable to me, as I feel like there’s a part in all of us that’s like Tori, struggling to belong in a world in which we feel different to everyone else and have trouble connecting to those around us. I’m definitely not nearly as pessimistic about life as Tori is, nor as insecure, but there were parts of her character I could really relate to, such as her preference to be alone, her blogs and her dislike of parties. I really hate parties, as well.  There were also a few things I didn’t particularly like about Tori. For example, I couldn’t help thinking during the novel: ‘Why do you drink so much diet lemonade ALL THE TIME?’ and ‘why don’t you like the Beatles’ and ‘WHY DON’T YOU LIKE READING?’ and ‘STOP DOING THAT! HE LIKES YOU.’ Sometimes I thought she acted kind of rash and changed her mind about things, or started feeling things out of the blue. In way of Oseman’s writing there could have been more  lead-up or explanation of Tori’s outbursts or changes of heart, at least when they happened. But, overall, I thought the voice of Tori was pretty brilliant and everything she struggles with about herself and about all the friends she has/had is dealt with really well.

The other characters are pretty awesome as well, particularly Michael Holden and Tori’s brother Charlie. (Funny because my brother’s name is also Charlie ooo). I really enjoyed Tori and Charlie’s relationship. What happens with Charlie is probably what surprised me the most about Solitaire. There’s no hint towards any of that part of the story in the blurb, so I really had no idea it was coming. It was pretty dramatic. But you’ll see when/if you read it. I also quite liked Lucas, Tori’s childhood best friend, Charlie’s boyfriend Nick, Tori’s younger brother Oliver, and her best friend Becky certainly makes a good case of herself as a great character towards the end of the book.

But, let’s talk a little bit about Michael Holden. I really, really liked Michael. I mean, sure, he’s a bit strange and has a fair lot of mood swings, but he’s still the kind of friend I’d like to have and the way his friendship with Tori developed throughout the novel was wonderful. I can’t really fault him. He was so complicated and real… I can’t really explain what I mean by that without giving away some stuff. I just mean that, the best people are the ones who make you realise things about yourself that you didn’t before, and some people really are just like you, and that is who Michael is. The kind of friend who, if you had them, you’d never let go.

Another thing I loved about the novel was all the references to music and films and books. I especially liked the (many) references to Harry Potter, and also to a lot of my other favourite things like Amelie, The Royal Tenenbaums, Little Miss Sunshine, Donnie Darko, Foals and The Collector by John Fowles (and a lot more!). I don’t know why, but there’s always something cool about reading a book and relating to the character when they talk about something you like or that you’ve seen or that you’ve heard of. It’s cool, right? Anyway. 

Okay, now for some things I didn’t like about the novel (besides some of Tori’s tendencies). One thing was Tori’s parents. I mean, they were complete assholes. Not in an abusive, swearing way, but the way that they didn’t seem to care much about Tori at all. Whether or not it was intentional of Oseman or not, I thought the absence of the parents was…a gaping hole. But it might have just been pointing towards Tori’s isolation of herself, that it was because of her actions that her parents didn’t care. I don’t know what it was, but I thought it was pretty odd. The other part about this book that I didn’t really like, or didn’t fully understand, was the whole Solitaire thing. I can’t say much about it without giving away the plot, but I just felt there was something…a bit odd about it. It just didn’t really make sense. It felt a little forced, or that it could have been better designed.

But I let that slide because the rest of the novel was really intriguing and I couldn’t help wanting to know what was going to happen next. I really think this is an important novel about loneliness, sadness, happiness, friendship and how, even if life can often feel futile, the best one can do is to make the most of it.


3 thoughts on “Solitaire by Alice Oseman: Book Review

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