I received this book for free from Publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Solitaire by Alice Oseman
Published by HarperTeen on March 31st, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
In Solitaire, Alice Oseman has brought to life a vivid, clever, and heartfelt portrayal of what it's like to be a teenager today. This stunning debut novel—which the Times (London) called "The Catcher in the Rye for the digital age"—is perfect for fans of Melina Marchetta, Stephen Chbosky, and Rainbow Rowell.
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 exams 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 is trying to do, and I don't care about Michael Holden. I really don't.
I knew that picking up Solitaire would be kind of a risk. It was the kind of blurb that attracted me because maybe I could relate to this main character and it would make me SOB. But it could also be pretentious, sappy, and/or completely boring. Sadly… it went for the boring route, and I just give zero fucks.
Part of what attracted me to this book was the knowledge that the main character is a blogger. But that was a big ass mistake. Blogging is hardly even mentioned in this book. It’s just a detail about her character – and she’ll mention a couple times that she has a blog or receives messages through her blog, but that’s it. At one point she has a remark about how strange it actually is to whine about your life online to get comfort from anonymous strangers, but other than that, blogging is not really a feature of this book.
Then there’s the pranking by the anonymous group “Solitaire”. Also hardly a feature of the book. They do some pranks, which gradually get more and more dangerous, but it’s not like Tori is actively working to unmask them. She spends a good 70% of the book not caring about them at all – like she doesn’t care about anything because everything is stupid. What boggles my mind is that her classmates seem to LOVE what Solitaire is doing, even after they arrange for the violent assault of an admittedly horrible guy and the ignition of fireworks in a crowd leading to widespread burn wounds. OH YEAH MAN, GO SOLITAIRE, WE LOVE YOU, YOU’RE SO COOL.
What we’re left with is a book that is obviously trying to become The Catcher in the Rye for the modern teen. And I am perfectly qualified to say this because I read (and hated) The Catcher in the Rye just last year. Though Solitaire is slightly less irritating and nowhere near as infuriating as Catcher, it falls into the same traps. You have a main character who suffers from “chronic pessimism” as she self-identifies it, but clearly there is more wrong with her than that: (manic) depression and/or some kind of personality disorder.
Something about her voice kept me engaged, though. The reason I picked this up was because in the blurb I thought that I might be able to connect with her on some level. I also have bouts of pessimism, when I’m looking at the world and just thinking, “Why do we bother with conventions? Why do we keep up whole conversations of small talk that really don’t mean anything? Why am I so godawful at making friends?” (Yes, I realize that most of those questions answer each other.) In that sense, I thought that maybe this book could help me – if not inspire me to grow from certain behaviors, at least it could make me feel less alone. But that unfortunately never happened. Though I could see myself in some of her troubling thoughts and behaviors, her voice was way too unfeeling and the ending just killed all my hopes.
This book just got weirder and weirder as time went on. At some point, Tori clearly has a psychotic break (i.e. literally laughing manically and uncontrollably when telling a completely depressing story), but none of this is ever really talked about upfront. Never is her mental illness clearly identified. Never is it suggested that she should seek help or go into therapy. (Though I suppose it’s kind of implied at the end that this will happen.) In fact, Michael the sort-of-yes-sort-of-no love interest ends up saving her by making her feel less alone and realize that actually everyone’s fucked up in their own way and goddammit I do not want to see this in a book ever again.
This book was utterly pointless. Let’s stop throwing around the word “insane” like that answers all questions and is just an “average teenage problem” as the blurb implies. Love is not a cure to mental illness. Having friends doesn’t fix mental illness (though surely it’ll help). I mean, at different points in this book, Tori has friends, but then she has another breakdown and screws it up again. In the end, I can’t see how that’ll be any different in the future. I didn’t see any growth from her – the whole book was just a gradual downward spiral.
In fact, the ending just left so much more to be desired. I didn’t get why Becky suddenly came back to Tori after legit ending their friendship. I was still wondering where the hell Michael came from at the beginning of the book – why he was so interested in Tori at all and what his mental illness exactly is. And I just wasn’t surprised by anything. I wanted to be surprised. I had running theories all throughout the book of potential plot twists View Spoiler »like, that Tori imagined Michael and he doesn’t exist; or that Charlie’s mental illness was actually Tori’s and she’d projected it onto him; or SOMETHING « Hide Spoiler but it ended up just being the most boring turn of events that didn’t surprise me nor make me particularly emotional at all. “The end? Okay. Moving on.”