Hello, bookish friends!
Today I am reviewing three books I’ve read recently, all of which I enjoyed, but two in particular of which I absolutely adored, and are favourites of the year so far! ❤
Without further ado, here are my thoughts!
Misfit by Charli Howard
Trigger warning: anxiety, anorexia, bulimia
I heard the author of this book speak at YALC last year and I thought it sounded amazing. It’s a mental-health memoir about Charli’s experiences with anxiety, anorexia, and bulimia, and how her mental illnesses were exacerbated by her time spent working in the modelling industry. I found this book so interesting, and it also made me so angry at some of the things that Charli went through. Actively being told by her agency to lose weight or lose her job when she was only a UK size 6? Utterly despicable. I already disliked the idea of an industry that puts out these images of unattainably thin women and makes us all feel bad that we don’t look like them, but hearing about how badly the people behind those images are treated made me hate it even more. The way Charli was constantly criticised about her appearance by her agency made me feel sick. It was like reading about an abusive relationship – one which she was contracted to be in.
I loved the raw honesty with which Charli told her story, although I wish the book had had more of a focus on her recovery. It is marketed towards teens, and whilst there are some empowering messages in there about how we shouldn’t let anyone dictate what is beautiful, and that all bodies of all sizes should be celebrated, I feel that teen readers who are struggling with body image and eating disorders could benefit from learning a bit more about how Charli recovered from her eating disorder, and what help she received. This section of the book felt so brief, considering what a huge and important part of the story this is. The other thing that bothered me was that there is a comment towards the end about how we can ‘choose whether [we] want to be happy or not’, and that didn’t sit well with me. Yes, in order to recover from a mental illness you have to want to, but you have to work unbelievably hard to do so; it’s not as simple as a mere choice.
Despite these issues, I thought this was an important and well-written memoir, but I would recommend this to someone who wants to learn more about eating disorders, rather than to somebody who is recovering from one. I think it could be triggering, and not necessarily helpful to that process, as the focus is more on the experience of the illness rather than the recovery from it. Charli herself points this out at the beginning of the book, and I thought that was really helpful.
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
This is another mental-health memoir, although it’s not structured like a memoir. It’s more like a collection of random thoughts and anecdotes, some of them related to mental illness, some of them just funny stories from the author’s life. I didn’t know much about the author going into this book, but she has a very successful blog called ‘The Bloggess’. I picked this up because of the mental health representation, rather than any particular attachment to the author, but having read this, I now want to read everything she has ever written and be her best friend.
The front cover of this book describes it as ‘a funny book about horrible things’. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this book is genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious. Like, I snorted with laughter at least once per page. Jenny’s humour can be quite whacky, and perhaps it won’t be for everyone, but she honestly had me in stitches, even when she was talking about difficult topics such as her depression and anxiety.
I loved that this book wasn’t only about mental health. Jenny Lawson is so much more than her mental illnesses, and I loved that some of the stories in here were just about weird things that have happened to her, funny arguments she’s had with her husband, and the hilarious hijinks of her taxidermy racoon (pictured on the cover). I know it seems an obvious statement – that mental illness isn’t somebody’s whole identity – but sometimes I forget this about myself, and it’s quite affirming to read something like this and think… oh yeah, my life is multi-faceted and full of hilarity too; my mental illness isn’t ME.
Whilst this book made me laugh consistently, it also really moved me in places. My favourite passage in this book was about something called ‘The Spoon Theory’, and it really resonated with me and my own experiences with depression:
I loved this book to pieces, and I might be in love with Jenny Lawson now. I definitely want to check out her blog and other book asap.
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
I listened to this as an audiobook, and absolutely adored it! It’s a heart-warming rom-com about Tiffy and Leon, who share a flat (and a bed) but have never met each other. One of them works nights, and the other during the day, so they never cross paths in person, but they start getting to know each other by leaving each other messages on post-it notes around their flat. I absolutely adored the main characters and the developing relationship between them. I loved how outgoing and fun and herself Tiffy was. I loved her thoughtfulness and her curiosity. Leon was introverted, awkward and sarcastic, but he had such a pure and lovely heart. He was so caring, so decent. The romance was perfectly paced, and the chemistry was spot on. It gave me the warm fuzzies, the butterflies – everything you want from a romance. The notes they wrote to each other made me laugh, and I loved the awkwardness of their first face to face encounter! It made me smile so much.
All the characters, even the minor ones, were well-developed and fleshed out. I found myself really caring about all of the subplots, and I loved that there was more to this book than the romance. Some of them were quite hard-hitting (Leon’s brother Richie is in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and Tiffy is being harassed by her emotionally abusive ex boyfriend), whilst others were light and heart-warming (Tiffy, a book editor, is working with an eccentric author on a book about crochet, and Leon, a palliative care nurse, is trying to track down the long lost love of one of his patients). I was so invested in every storyline, and that’s a testament to how much I cared about Tiffy and Leon. I felt gutted when things went badly for them, and genuine joy when things worked out. I don’t have any personal experience with emotionally abusive relationships, but I thought Tiffy’s storyline was so well handled, and it was amazing to see her start to recover from this, not as a result of her new relationship, but because of her own inner strength, and the support of her friends. I think it raised some important awareness about this type of abuse.
I don’t have a bad word to say about this book. It was a wonderful pick-me up, and one of my favourite things I’ve read this year.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 🙂
Lots of literary love, Jess! xxx