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Book Review: Pretending by Holly Bourne

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Label Features Editor, Vicki Phillips, tells us about her lockdown must-read: ‘Pretending’ by Holly Bourne.

Two of the things I am most passionate about; feminism and mental health. That is this book summed up.

Holly Bourne, the best-selling author of, ‘Am I Normal Yet?’ is back again with another inspirational novel: ‘Pretending.’ From the start of this book, I was hooked. The opening chapter, ‘I hate men,’ a bit tongue in cheek, but equally, this unique start to a book worked perfectly in setting the story up for its emotional development.

The story follows April’s love life, or should I say, Gretel? April has had a harrowing experience with love and boys. Like every woman, April feels she is not enough whilst also always being too much. However, Gretel is the perfect woman, the ‘Regular Everyday Manic Pixie Dream Girl Next Door With No Problems.’ Gretel is the seamless mix between looking good but not trying too hard, emotionally stable whilst still needing to depend on the support of a male, having a busy, fun-filled life and always having time for her boyfriend. Yet, Gretel isn’t real, she is every girl’s worst nightmare and every male’s dream. So, what will happen when April decides to PRETEND to be the perfect woman, renaming herself Gretel?

For me, one of the main reasons why this book is so great is because it discusses difficult but important topics. April works as a support worker for a rape crisis centre, alongside experiencing rape herself. The book explores the aftermath of these experiences and the awful truths of what it can do to a person.

As well as sexual abuse, it equally focuses on the struggles of sexism, something painfully relevant to every woman. The brilliancy of this book is the relatability. There will be a moment in this book when you will recognise a thought you also had, similar to April’s, and it is both disheartening but also reassuring to understand these emotions are felt by almost every woman around the world.

However, despite the honest and raw experiences of April’s life, the book shows a journey of recovery and acceptance. It shows that things can get better. That no one is alone. The perfect woman truly does not exist. That you are enough, as you are.

If you are looking for an isolation read with emotional depth and a reward, then this is the book for you.

Featured image by Sarah Hannaford.

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