Solitaire by Alice Oseman

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Solitaire by Alice Oseman

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Olivia Mitchell
Reviewed by Olivia Mitchell
Summary: A complex and dark YA novel about a girl who hates herself, an eccentric boy and a blog set out to bring down their school. Engaging and challenging, full of exciting twists and the heartbreaking relationships teenagers have.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: May 2018
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0007559220

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Victoria Spring has returned to Year 12 following Christmas break and feels dead to the world. Nothing is interesting. People are stupid and boring. She has one real friend; the rest are just people she sits near so she's not a complete loner. She hates a lot of things - including herself. But suddenly, a blog called Solitaire has arrived and is pulling pranks throughout the school. And Michael Holden has appeared and is showing up everywhere in Tori's life. Tori doesn't know (or care) why she's involved, but suddenly she is. What does Solitaire want? Who's behind it? Why does it all seem to be linked to Tori? Why does Michael want to be in Tori's life so badly and who is he, really? Things are only getting stranger and darker, and only one thing is certain – Tori isn't bored anymore.

Tori is almost unlikeable in her constant passivity and general disinterest towards everything - and yet is instantly recognisable as a struggling teenager. Her family life is complicated and a burden. Her best friend is her only friend and Tori loves her - but she doesn't really like her all that much anymore. All the colour seems to be drained from her life. Tori does love things - films, her brothers, music - but they aren't enough. She inspires sympathy in a challenging way, as a struggling teenager with a complicated home life and a near inability to be happy, and now everything seems to be getting worse. As the story progresses she spirals. Her only hope is Michael and her desire to act against Solitaire. She's not an overly endearing or loveable protagonist, and I find myself frustrated by her, yet my heart hurts for her all the same and she did grow on me towards the end. She plays off very well against the complicated, eccentric and mysterious Michael Holden, creating a very enjoyable relationship to read.

The other characters in the book are interesting and creative in their own right - they are typical and not typical all at once. They are believable yet unpredictable, making the book enjoyable to read.

The book is split into 2 parts, splitting the story into the before and after of the beginning of chaos. It is told in the first person and Oseman captured the different phases of Tori's mentality very well through the language and expertly crafted imagery of the book, from her apathy to her spiral, creating a very real and impactful character and story. The story combines regular teenage drama - breakups, hookups, friendships and fallouts with the more mysterious and sinister element that is Solitaire and it's plans. It's an addictive and enjoyable read, and the book is clearly very well thought out with an exciting plot line full of twists and gripping turns.

My only downside is I felt a bit lost at times during the book, not quite understanding Tori or her actions or her thinking. I constantly found myself desperate for her to have some kind of redemption. For so long she was her own worst enemy and did nothing about it. However, she becomes so consumed by everything that happens that I do feel sorry for her, and her heart is in the right place even if she can't show it.

A complicated book about danger, obsession, relationships, struggling with yourself, the pain of school and growing up, and realising you never really know the people around you.

Further Reading:
Loveless by Alice Oseman - a contemporary YA novel by the same author.
One of Us Is Lying by Karen M McManus - a dark YA mystery novel set against the backdrop of an American high school.

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