Solitaire by Alice OsemanPublished by HarperTeen on March 30th 2015
ARC from Publisher
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In case you're wondering, this is not a love story.
My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that's all over now.
Now there's Solitaire. And Michael Holden.
I don't know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don't care about Michael Holden. I really don't.
I didn’t really know much about Solitaire when I picked it up but I was pretty hopeful it would turn out to be an engaging read. In a few ways it was, but in general, I’d have to say it was kind of a let down. I say ‘kind of’ because while it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be, it wasn’t all that bad either.
“Sometimes I hate people. This is probably very bad for my mental health.”
For one, it is as unflinchingly honest as the blurb indicates. (The first part of the blurb, about this one being perfect for John Green and Rainbow Rowell fans, is totally misleading though.) Tori Spring’s mind is a dark one and Oseman doesn’t hold back on exploring Tori’s dour thoughts. Her pessimism and introversion were very realistically presented in the story. I actually found myself relating to those parts of her, as well as some lines from the book that were so remarkably true. I also liked the assimilation of mainstream culture (tumblr, blogs, Sherlock, Harry Potter, etc.) through Tori’s life, which reflected the life of many teenagers today. Alas, her state of misery made the narrative monotonous. As the plot moved forward, I grew tired of Tori’s negative mentality and it was harder to like her. It didn’t help that the other characters were not very well-developed either. I’d find myself feeling sad for them occasionally, but I never felt attached or like I truly connected with them.
“I don’t want people to try and understand why I’m the way I am, because I should be the first person to understand that. And I don’t understand yet. I don’t want people to interfere. I don’t want people in my head, picking out this and that, permanently picking up the broken pieces of me.”
When I mentioned the plot moving forward earlier, I probably should have mentioned how this happens at a snail’s pace. Throughout reading, I just wanted things to happen already. And when they finally did- after a lifetime I might add- I just didn’t get it. I was confused what the point of the ‘mystery’ plot was. The whole ‘Solitaire’ scheme was frustratingly futile and also just unbelievable. I couldn’t wrap my head around it at all. At times it felt like an afterthought for Tori herself so I was just weirded out when random things occurred as if just to add some suspense.
“There’s a time and a place for being normal. For most people, normal is their default setting. But for some, like you and me, normal is something we have to bring out, like putting on a suit for a posh dinner.”
Michael Holden, a cheerful and weird and random boy that Tori meets at the very first chapter, was a pretty big player in the story and also a pretty curious character. I actually liked watching Michael and Tori slowly become friends but unfortunately, despite the claim of not being a love story, the there was still romance. Although there were some parts I found sweet, and Tori points out that Michael didn’t fix her, I was disappointed that the romance seemed to have motivated her character growth.
“All I know is that I’m here. And I’m alive. And I’m not alone.”
Solitaire was gritty- telling a young girl’s story of depression- but it didn’t really move me. It made me sad because it was told in such honesty, yes, but I had a hard time really connecting to the characters. While the story holds potential in possibly being relatable and interesting to readers, especially those who like to read about teenager with real issues, it was just an okay book for me.