Tuesday 16 February 2016

How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

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.

It should come as no surprise that this review is going to be gushing and loving! It had so many things to love, not just Bourne's incredible writing skills but also the tough subject of alcoholism and broken families, alongside feminism and friendship. 

As Amber spends the first summer with her mum in years, Bourne explores the second hand effects of alcoholism. Amber was only a child when she witnessed her mum's downward spiral and then she was wrenched away when her dad met another woman and the mum's shrink took her away to the states. Amber might have been selfish to expect more of her mother but she was also still a child when it came to understanding the effects; what had happened to her was never explained to Amber so all she saw were the excuses. And after such a long time apart, it makes communication difficult when they are basically strangers.

We also had the expected feminist talk too, this time with the exploration of the "nice guy" trope. Kyle was worried he was just doing what was expected of him, not really living how he wanted, and thought that this hindered his relationships with girls. But as he and Amber get closer and reveal truly honest parts of themselves, it proved that the balance between being in a relationship and being a feminist is possible: just because she liked Kyle, it didn't detract from who Amber was or what she believed in. 

And if that isn't enough to sway you to read this, it also had English-ness in the midst of an American summer camp with lots Harry Potter references. We had the sometimes logical, sometimes insane insights of best friends Evie and Lottie from across the pond; even though this meant that we didn't get the same full interaction, it did show the strength of their friendships. With all these difficult and complicated subjects crammed in, it might surprise you how funny this was. Yeah, things got worse before they got better but it was written so that the realism and the happy ending balanced each other perfectly. Definitely a new favourite. 

Published 1st February 2016 by Usborne.

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