[Trigger warning: sexual assault, eating disorder]
As much as I like fantasy, like to lose myself in a world that is different to our own, escaping into the impossible, there is something magical about a contemporary that I am totally addicted to. The connection, the relatability of the characters, the messages and mirrors to real life thrill me. I devour them because I like how they allow me to understand the world around me. Although it isn’t a genre that I regularly pick up, when I find one that is perfect, I can’t help but scream about it from the roof tops.
Which brings me onto the fantastic ‘How Do You Like Me Now?’ by Holly Bourne. I picked this book up on a whim when on a bit of a contemporary and romance splurge. I like hard hitting books, reads that leave you shocked and reeling, but sometimes you need something light and fluffy. That is what I thought I was getting myself into when I picked up the book. The front cover is welcoming, the illustrated figure looking at you friendly and appealing. But this book is so much more than that. In this little novel, such a wealth of social and gender issues are held within and I was hypnotised with the experiences of the characters, whose lived I recognised from my own life.
Who the f*ck is Tori Bailey?
There’s no doubt that Tori is winning the game of life. A straight-talking, bestselling author, she’s inspired millions of women around the world with her self-help memoir. And she has the perfect relationship to boot.
But Tori Bailey has been living a lie.
Her long-term boyfriend won’t even talk about marriage, but everyone around her is getting engaged and having babies. And when her best friend Dee – her plus one, the only person who understands the madness – falls in love, suddenly Tori’s in terrifying danger of being left behind.
When the world tells you to be one thing and turning thirty brings with it a loud ticking clock, it takes courage to walk your own path.
It’s time for Tori to practice what she’s preached, but the question is: is she brave enough?
For me, the stand out perfection of this novel sits with the wonderful protagonist: Tori. I found her completely relatable, faults and all. Despite having success in the past, Tori is stuck with the question of what is next. People look towards her for help and support, but the truth is that they are looking for a Tori that doesn’t exist, a Tori that was fiction itself. She is constantly torn between being true to herself and projecting a ‘truth’ to others around her. Every action she makes is motivated by the perception of herself by others, both in terms of her fans and her friends. There is a strong focus on social media, the affect on Tori and the image she returns. Her narration is brutally honest and blunt, and the truthfullness was one I recognised from the voices in my own mind. Bourne’s narrative is honestly a masterpiece and every time I turned a page, I felt immersed in Tori’s life as I was with my own.
There are a variety of heavy hitting issues that are discussed in this novel that I believe are so important. I have already touched upon the discussion of social media, however this is only the tip of the iceberg. Also discussed within the pages of this delectable read are: sexual politcs; navagating adulthood; body image; integrity etc. I often read books that involve these issues but this book truly handles these topics in such a unique and intimate way. Through the first person narrative voice, Tori shares her inner thoughts in a completely unrestrained manner, meaning that there is no way you can ignore the echoes in your own life. I cannot ignore that the thoughts that Tori has are the thoughts I have had. The novel forces you to bring a mirror to your own life and examine your own personal thoughts and think about what has made you view the world and your life in that way.
The book follows a chronological structure, nine months in Tori’s life. It follows obligatory weddings, dates, book tours, interviews, as well as the intimate moments of her own life. You are left witness as she operates through her life, urging and wishing that she would be more honest with those around her, but having to accept that, when you are in her shoes, you aren’t honest either.
I think it is perfectly clear that I absolutely adored this read. It was honest and relatable and I felt such a connection to the writing style and the characters I met along the way. I can’t wait to see what follows Holly Bourne after her debut novel.