Review: How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

You know how I only ever write a review when my head is exploding from how awesome a book is and I need to shove it in someone's face as soon as possible? This is one of those times. But I'm trying to get better at, you know, reviewing, because I do need a decent excuse to give to my parents when I'm lugging home another ten books to add to the TBR pile. It will also stretch me out of my comfort zone and that is a GOOD THING.

Holly Bourne's How Hard Can Love Be?, #2 in the Normal series, released today, and if you're wondering how I read it (at 480 pages) and wrote this review so quickly, I got it from a bookshop that accidentally had it on the shelves two days ago. I could call this my first ARC review, but honestly that's probably pushing it; ARCs are unlikely for someone who's only written two three (as of today) reviews ever.

But I digress.

This book is about a sarcastic British girl at American summer camp, the emotional trainwreck that is an absentee mother, and how feminism mixes with teenage life. If this sounds like the recipe for book heaven to you, then please come and be my friend. We could find books exactly like this, read them and be so empowered by the wordy Valhalla that we took over the world.

I'll scream about all the amazing parts - there were many - in a second, but first a quick word about this book's 'series status'. Yes, it is the middle book in a trilogy, and the main character from Am I Normal Yet? is one of Amber's best friends, but I think this has been very carefully written so you don't have to have read that first. You still should get to it at some point, of course, because it's dangerously close to being even more awesome than its sequel, but I'm just saying if you don't want to, there's no obligation.

Does it make me transparently predictable that I was mostly sucked into the first few chapters of this book due to the copious Harry Potter references? If so I don't really care. Amber's childhood memories, many involving our favourite boy wizard, were skilfully woven into the narrative, and although flashbacks can get a bit confusing in other books, these were always short enough not to disrupt the forward motion of the plot. They were always formatted in italics, and that helped too.

As the writing went on, I was really glad to see how it fit well into the story of the first book. There were still Spinster Club meetings, although they had to happen over Skype or through email because Amber was on the other side of the world, and the CAPITAL LETTERS that Bourne uses just enough to be memorable but not annoying? Present and correct.

I'd also like to take a moment to say that there was . . . OH WAIT THIS IS A SPOILER FOR BOOK ONE {Highlight for spoiler}a mention of Evie and Oli. A torturous mention that did not tell me nearly enough. In fact, I am dangerously close to removing half a star for the utter pain because I WANNA KNOW NOOOW! {End of spoiler}

Another thing I am starting to adore about this series (and long may it continue into the third book) is that the girls have real problems beside boys. Amber has an alcoholic Mum who made her early childhood more than difficult, and now she has to live with the stepmother and stepbrother from hell. She's also exceptionally tall, and while as a tiny pixie barely over five foot I cannot relate to this specifically, most of us can totally get the whole my-friends-are-getting-boyfriends-and-becoming-mature-how-do-I-not-keep-my-happiness-tied-to-dating-thing. Just as OCD was handled in an excruciatingly perfect way with Am I Normal Yet?, alcoholism and feelings of abandonment were processed in the best way possible.

Mostly, this is evidenced in chapter twenty-nine. I swear the ending would not be half as satisfying without the amazingness of chapter twenty-nine.

I'm more than a little aware that this review is basically a throwing together of random thoughts, but this is how I process books. It's totally not weird *manic grin*. I would like to throw in one more thought, and that is that there is finally a NICE FEMINIST GUY in the Spinster Club girls' lives. But who?

That would be telling.
In the comments: Have you read Am I Normal Yet? Do you like the sound of this? Basically . . . when are you going to obey me and read the brilliance?
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