I picked this up after I finished How Hard Can Love Be?, the second in Holly Bourne’s Normal series. Having really enjoyed two of her books, I wanted to try some more. This novel was her debut. While I can tell from Goodreads that some people absolutely adore it, unfortunately for me it fell a little flat.
The protagonist is Poppy, a seventeen year old who lives in a boring suburban town not too far from London; it’s even named Middletown just to impress on us how in the middle of everything it is. Poppy hates cliches, and spent a good while telling us so before she wanders into a relationship and becomes a walking one. She meets Noah the guitarist at band night with her friends, and immediately feels a massive attraction to him, while simultaneously deciding to never be nice to him on the outside. It’s all incredibly first teenage romance and has a heavy dose of insta-love to it, although the whole book is actually about explaining that.
The book has a ‘twist’, which involves the actual existence of soulmates, as an awkwardly, psuedo-scientifically, shoehorned-in, side plot which explains events in Poppy and Noah’s relationship and, eventually, collide. While I like the idea that Holly Bourne has come up with, for me personally, I didn’t feel like it came off. I spent a lot of time confused and feeling like immersion in this secret element of the world could have been embedded rather better into the narrative as a whole, rather than feeling like two entirely separate stories had been very confusingly thrown into a blender.
I really wish I had something nicer to say, because at the end of the day I still really admire Holly Bourne and will read any more books she brings out. I’m glad she wrote this debut because otherwise perhaps we wouldn’t have got the Normal series, which I really do love, and I like what she tried to do here. I didn’t love this book, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t precisely someone else’s cup of tea – I do harbour a suspicion that perhaps I was too old for a first reading of this.
Overall, this wasn’t my cup of tea – I probably would have enjoyed it more without the big twist. The love story itself is very sweet, and certainly recognisable for anyone who has been a teenager feeling the very strong hormonal cocktail of a first serious relationship.