The Mud and Stars Book Blog

thoughts from a girl who spends her days in other worlds…

Solitaire by Alice Oseman – My first ever book review, inspired by the amazing book-bloggers at YALC 2015, and a damn good story :)

on July 29, 2015

DISCLAIMER: I’m new to this, so if this is in any way spoilery, I’m really sorry! I tried my best not to be.

solitaireSolitaire. Alice Oseman. Harper Collins Children’s Books. July 2014.

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.

Soooo, first thing’s first: I adored Alice Oseman’s debut novel. Solitaire was like a 400 page journey into the murky depths of my own teenage soul! In short, I am not sure whether I devoured it, or it devoured me…

Solitaire is the story of Tori Spring, chronic pessimist, blogger and sleeper, who is shaken awake when a group of anonymous school pranksters, the mysterious  ‘Solitaire’, start messing with the order of things, just when Tori thinks she’s got everything sussed, and a potential new friend (in the form of Michael Holden, figure-skater and all-round adorable human being) starts popping up all over the place, when all Tori wants to do is get back into bed with some diet lemonade and not talk to anyone for a while.

Tori is flailing around in her own head, not really sure what the point of anything is, and in her snarky, but painfully real, own voice, she analyses her disintegrating friendships with purple-haired Becky and childhood-friend-turned-awkward-hipster Lucas, her worries over her brother Charlie, her blossoming friendship/I-want-to-push-you-away-ship with Michael Holden, and her growing confusion over who the frick and why the heck are Solitaire (and does she actually even care?)

I connected with Tori on many levels. At 17, I WAS her – I spent a lot of time in the mole-hole of my own head, wanted to marry my bed, and frequently felt disengaged from the world and the people around me (with some very important exceptions!)

Something that really resonated with me is that Tori is constantly questioning the realism of everything; Is this person fake? Does anyone really care? Is Pride and Prejudice just a load of old bullshit? Have all teenage hipsters REALLY read The Catcher in the Rye?

We SHOULD be asking these questions, and we shouldn’t stop, even when we cease to be a teen.

I also found it incredibly refreshing to read a novel where the main character is an ardent book-hater – Tori HATES literature with a passion, despite having chosen to study it for A-Level. One of my favourite sentences comes from Tori’s P&P essay:

“I am sorry, Mr Kent, but I have not read Pride and Prejudice. I disagreed with the very first sentence and that was enough for me.”

I am so used to reading the same old struggles-of-an-angsty-bookworm narrative in contemporary YA, and I’m sure it’s because all authors are by nature book-inhalers themselves, but it’s interesting to explore POVs that are completely different to your own, so I really appreciated this in Tori’s story.

Warning, VAGUELY SPOILER BIT COMING UP… (or maybe I’m just being super paranoid, in which case don’t listen to me)

By far my favourite thing about Solitaire was every scene Michael Holden made an appearance, with his maniacal grin and limitless curiosity. To begin with, Tori wouldn’t give him the time of day, or even think of him as a real person, and I did start to wonder why he wouldn’t give up trying to friendship-woo her, when she was so damn mean to him. But the more I read, the more I realised his reaching out to her was just as much about him needing a friend, as it was about trying to save her. Both Michael and Tori struggle to connect with other people, which is precisely the reason it’s so important for them to make that connection with each other.

The front cover of Solitaire claims ‘This is not a love story’, and I’m not sure I’d agree with that statement, but it’s also about so much more. It’s about making sense of the shittiness of growing up, about getting your head around other people and what they do, and it’s also, quite clearly, about mental health. Tori is not ‘diagnosed’ with anything, and her mental health is not talked about explicitly, but it’s not hard to see that there’s something not quite right in Tori’s head, and the sense of this only deepens throughout the novel. But that’s what’s so great about it – there are no labels put on how she’s feeling, and that’s what makes it so easy to relate to – we’ve all felt like this at some point in our lives, and we don’t have to define ourselves to appreciate that.

I loved everything about this story, and it’s just as relevant to me at 24 as it would have been at 17. Reeeead it, people 🙂


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