Solitaireby Alice Oseman Published 31 Jul 2014
|Publisher||Harper Collins Children's Books UK|
Download Solitaire (2014) PDF ePub eBook
- 1. Register a free 1 month Trial Account.
- 2. Download as many books as you like.
- 3. Cancel the membership at any time if not satisfied.
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.
This incredible debut novel by outstanding young author Alice Oseman is perfect for fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell and all unflinchingly honest writers.
This is my first published book! I wrote it when I was 17 and it is very close to my heart. It features:
- a protagonist battling depression with self-deprecating jokes and learning to find joy in the world
- an eccentric speed skater who likes solving mysteries but doesn't have any friends
- two very different teens finding hope in a new friendship
- an online group of pranksters
- Nick and Charlie from heartstopper
I really hope you enjoy it!
I started writing books when I was thirteen.
They were terrible. Man, they were bad. I also wrote fanfic, which I think was actually a better use of my time - I learned so much from writing fanfic. And I think the reason why my fanfic was better than my original ninety-page "novels" was because, at thirteen, a person simply does not have the range to write with enough nuance, restraint, or sociological knowledge.
The biggest thing I've learned since I started writing books almost ten years ago (oh my god, now you can guess how old I am! Japes) is that the most important thing, barring anything else, is an understanding of human psychology. I don't mean that a person has to trawl through four years of a psychology degree and read medical journals from Harvard; that's not the sort of psychology I'm talking about. What I mean is that a person has to have taken a certain number of steps, and met a certain amount of people, and been involved in many different social scenarios, to properly understand how to write actual people.
This probably seems like a really simple concept: Kiki, don't talk shit, obviously a person has to meet people in order to understand how they work. Yes, but think about that. I want to preface the next paragraph with a disclaimer: I don't mean to offend any teenage writers out there. Or, for that matter, any teenagers. Teenagers are the heirs to our planet and I write for them. I write FOR THEM. Teenagers are complex and brave and being a teenager is incredibly hard, and it only gets harder from thereon out, because after the teens does not come a plateau. After the teens comes the fucking twenties, man, and getting through that shit is like walking through an endless snowstorm that you're inappropriately dressed for. If I stood in front of a panel and had my twenties graded, I'd probably hit a borderline C-.
But I have to say this, because I was a teenage writer: teenagers, more often than not, don't have the range to write books. Especially books about weighty topics such as mental health and suicide and love and hope and redemption. "Love" is the worst one, because too many people treat it too simply, like narratives on immortality. Love and immortality are subjects that human minds have not even begun to scratch the surface of. Love in particular is a topic that still bewilders us completely, and when we pretend to understand it, that's when we all fall down. (This sounds really cheesy and also very sarcastic, but guys, I'm being serious. For once.)
There are some exceptions, of course, but they belong to the most exceptional teenagers, like Malala Yousafzai. But the average teenager is not equipped to deal with these sorts of topics, and they shouldn't be expected to. In the small window of time that it takes to transition from being a teenager to being an adult, a person's view of the world, and of psychology, changes drastically. Teenagers look towards themselves for insight into human behaviour, because of course they do. Someone who is still forming, both socially and biologically, is of course looking inwards and not outwards. But looking outwards is vital because that's how a better understanding of humans works. It's how you create a narrative that isn't filled with people who are exactly the same as you.
Given the hard work that goes into writing a book, I admire teenager authors who are willing to tackle it. I did, and it was exhausting. But write what you know is, contrary to many think pieces that refute it, extremely important, and it also relies on knowing outside of your small circle. And the opportunity to step outside of that circle is a very difficult thing for the average teenager to access.
I can't say a lot about this book that hasn't already been said. The maturity level of the writing, plot, and character development leaves a fuckload to be desired. It's a book that doesn't really know what it is, doesn't know how to pace itself, and doesn't know what it's trying to say. I doesn't know the nuances of mental illness, of how not to use characters as plot devices, of how to legitimize statements like, "I feel like I might be the only person with a consciousness, like a video-game protagonist, and the rest are computer-generated extras who have only a few select few actions, such as 'initiate meaningless conversation' and 'hug'". This is either a very tongue-in-cheek reference to teenage hubris, which I doubt, since this book takes itself laughably seriously, or an actual observation from someone who has absolutely no awareness of anything that is happening around them. This attitude, holier-than-thou, is never countered. There is a small sentence at the end in which the protagonist states "each person is a whole person" but how is this something that needs to be realized? And this follows a problematic half-plot in which a Manic Pixie Dream Boy saves the protagonist from her completely unfounded pessimistic view of the world.
Unfounded, because Tori is not suffering from a mental illness. The symptoms simply are not there. You can disagree with me if you want, but I'm going to need some concrete proof for this, of which there is none. Tori is dealing with feelings of low self esteem, but these are circumstantial issues, natural in teenagers going through a transition phase; I don't see a fucking shred of evidence to suggest that there's anything clinically wrong with this girl. She's a narcissist, yes, and extremely selfish, but these aren't illnesses.
Here's the thing: circumstantial mental health issues arise from outside factors and are not chronic. They don't last forever. They can be very upsetting, and shouldn't be belittled, but call them what they are. Treat them how they need to be treated. Do not monopolise resources that are there to treat people who are dealing with mental illnesses that affect every facet of their lives, that prevent them from living their lives, that affect their ability to function - clinical mental illnesses are often lifelong and caused by internal chemical imbalances or other physical factors that cannot be cured. Think on this: how does the "trendiness" of mental health issues, and the number of people erroneously self diagnosing, delegitimise the struggle of people who have chronic mental illnesses - and circumstantial ones too - that prevent them from functioning?
Circumstantial mental health problems are serious and people suffering with them need care, help, and understanding. But those dealing with them do not need to scream over the voices of people who are forced to accept that their clinical chronic mental illnesses are going to be a lifelong struggle.
And these people who feel a little bit nervous on the first day of university, or don't like going to the doctor, and act as if these reactions are so abnormal
and mean they have a mental illness, and self diagnose... Idk. I don't have time for that. I don't have time for people who are so sheltered and out of tune with what's going on around them that they think feeling a bit sad on one rainy afternoon means they have chronic clinical depression. They think that it's somehow abnormal to feel overwhelmed when you're a teenager and making decisions that'll impact the rest of your life.
I know people who've done this. People who've gone to the doctor to get medication for mental illnesses that they openly admit they don't have. People who get that medication because it's "trendy" to stand in the queue for an appointment at the doctor when you've got no business there, pushing back patients who actually need to get medical attention. Just so that they can join in discussions on Twitter that they have no business being a part of.
The situation with me, personally, is complex and a daily struggle and I honestly don't have the fucking strength to talk about my own mental health. Besides, it's private. But what I will say is that it personally angers me, very deeply, to see people abusing services and making mental health a "trend", spreading total misinformation. It alienates people who are genuinely ill and need serious help. People on the outside see the absurd circus in which unqualified minors get sad because sometimes being a bit sad is part of life, and then decide they have depression, and jump around waving their arms in front of people who actually have experience and have something of value to add to the conversation. Of course, those same minors will grow up and forget about that and go live normal bland lives. But the people they shouted over, the people they silenced, will still be struggling.
I digress. But do you understand what I mean with this?
(This is why the insertion of suicide at the end of this book, during the ridiculous climax, felt so jarring and out of place. One, because it didn't gel with anything we already knew about Tori, and two, because it was handled so pathetically. It was so unbearably blasé. One second we're teetering on the edge of a rooftop, the next, we're sharing a joke about it, and Tori tells us it was accidental. Are you kidding me with this?)
The issue with parents in his book is never dealt with, either, though I was waiting for it to happen; I might have given it another star if it had been in any way expanded upon. In one scene, Tori screams at her mother for not ironing a skirt for her, and when her mother refuses, because she is working from home, Tori concludes that her mother doesn't care about her and nobody cares. This is a girl who is sixteen years old and has two functioning arms that can iron her own fucking school skirt.
It's this sort of entitled, pathetic, self-absorbed behaviour from the protagonist that makes her impossible to sympathize with. I used to go out with a guy who said, "I sometimes wonder if I'm the only living one and everyone else is a programmed robot" and I was so profoundly hurt by this statement that I cut him completely out of my life. Drastic, maybe, but this sort of self absorbed, socially blinkered outlook is not charming or relatable. It's the exact opposite. It's overwhelmingly immature, like this book.
This book just does not know what it's talking about. It's contradictory; nobody twigs that Ben Hope is dealing with internalized homophobia and people need to be helped through that. Nobody joins the dots between Becky desperately wanting to be popular, and how we've all felt that way at some point, therefore not cutting off her relationship with Ben following an incident that she doesn't fully understand. Tori hates her mother for absolutely no reason whatsoever, totally dehumanising her, choosing to be willfully ignorant of the fact that her being able to come home and do nothing, have a constant supply of the food and drink that she wants, and go to a grammar school, is due to her parents working and caring about her wellbeing. Smaller children can't be expected to understand this, but Tori is sixteen years old, and considers herself an authority on everything. She is not expected to get a job, or do anything she doesn't want to do, or be independent in any conceivable way. When she's on her way to a party, her mother drives her there and asks her if she wants some money, and apparently this makes her the worst most uncaring mother who has ever existed.
This book is overwhelmingly white ("their race was never mentioned" is not an excuse; being black or brown is a part of a person's identity, not just their skin colour, and if you write your character with the cultural markers of a white person, then you have to accept that they're a white person) and these characters are overwhelmingly privileged, and the amount of discourse around these issues in YA today means that it's not good enough to simply argue, 'I didn't know'. You did know. We have come far enough that this total blindness towards privilege is not acceptable anymore. This book tried at diversity with its gay characters, but it has no idea how to even scratch the surface of issues like internalized homophobia, and both of its out gay characters were convenient plot devices there to fuel the protagonist's angst. The mental illness of one of these gay characters was also sensationalised beyond belief.
This book failed for me, in pretty much every way. It was melodramatic, socially blinkered, absurdly self-serious and self-important. The constant references to media and pop-culture were absolutely agonizing, and left the book feeling intolerably dated. I'm definitely not the intended audience, but I don't think that as a teenager this would have been the sort of thing I'd have identified with in any way. I do applaud the author for succeeding at such a young age, but that comes with a price tag.
“But books–they’re different. When you watch a film, you’re sort of an outsider looking in. With a book–you’re right there. You are inside. You are the main character.”
I first heard about Solitaire on Tumblr. I've been following Alice Oseman ever since and I desperately wanted to read her novel. So when I finally, finally! found it at the library I think I maybe made some loud joyful sound and hugged it...yeah.
I loved Solitaire from the beginning. I couldn't wait to read about all the characters I had already heard of and I instantly fell in love with Nick&Charlie.
Solitaire is, in general, an extremely relatable YA novel. It deals with all the stuff our generation deals with, especially anxiety, depression and lgbt+ topics. It makes me very happy to see all this put into words and represented in this wonderful story.
Although I disliked a few characters - I did not really understand why the main character even put up with them - and did expect something else from the ending, I just have to give 5 stars. I believe this is a book you either love or hate, understand or don't. And I love and understand.
Find more of my books on Instagram
OKAY HERE'S THE DEAL: I filmed my review with half of my forehead cut out of the frame and it's not really that bad, but it was my second time filming due to "technical difficulties" (aka my own inability to get my camera to work) SO, we are doing this here and now and then calling it a day. Please enjoy my quick, messy review notes typed for your leisure.
So, before I get into anything specific I want to say that while I had a lot of pretty major problems with Solitaire, having already read Radio Silence I think that I can confidently say that Alice Oseman has improved greatly in her storytelling (specifically characters and plot which is HUGE). And while it's awesome/amazing/cool to celebrate and praise authors who roll out of the gates with their debut hitting the NYT Bestseller list etc. etc. I think that it's equally important to recognize when an author fixes or improves upon their past works.
Alright, now on with it...
tw: depression, eating disorders
Becky, Lucas, Michael, Charlie, and Nick. Side characters that were completely brushed over and under developed throughout the whole story.
I want more of Nick and Charlie together (backstory, relationship dynamic, just general cuteness). They seem to have a really solid relationship which was great, but now I want MORE PLS. Yes, I know there is a novella, and I plan to obtain it at some point, but that doesn't erase the fact that I felt like they deserved a lot more page time.
I would have loved to hear more FROM Becky rather than ABOUT her. She is painted as a complete airhead and a terrible friend by Tori, but based on her actions at the end of the story, I think Tori's narrative did her dirty and she should have been given some more credit.
Michael's character was, unfortunately, a mess. We hear nothing about his home life or his family. Not to mention, certain characters make it seem like Michael is "crazy" (even citing a specific event that causes people to be wary of him...and yet, I have NO IDEA what the heck happened because, oh yeah, no one actually explains it.
Lastly, Lucas. Let me just say that Lucas being Solitaire was totally obvious to me and his motive didn't make any sense? Only my opinion, but do you honestly think that someone caring for a childhood friend would ultimately end in them deciding it is an acceptable "prank" (um...crime.) to burn down a school? Yeah, right.
Now for Tori Spring. I may sound a bit hypocritical here, but her judgment was EXHAUSTING. She cares about next to nothing, and having to read through her eyes for a few hundred pages was awful. Let me make an assumption: Alice Oseman began (and finished?) writing this when she was 17. Now, this isn't to say that teens can't be great writers, but I really think that whatever angst or emotion 17 y/o Alice Oseman was feeling overpowered Tori's character and was never leveled out. It's normal for authors to allow themselves or their emotions to influence their characters, but unfortunately by the end of the story I was completely over Tori and had resorted to skimming.
Where was it? The story follows a girl who is stuck reacting to the world around her, pissed that she's so stagnant, and then results in her ultimately doing nothing about it. (other than burn down a building?) That's pretty much it honestly.
the rep was...not great.
Tori describes herself multiple times in a few various ways as "pessimist. mood killer. unbearably awkward. and probably paranoid. deluded. nasty. borderline insane. manically depressed. psychopath." (pg. 290)
She was the one who discovered her brother after he attempted suicide, and she walks around for the entire novel displaying signs of depression. yet, no one ever seems to think that she may need some kind of help. Parents, friends, teachers all remain oblivious for the entire novel. The only person who seems to notice and makes Tori feel okay is Michael. Unfortunately, this plays into the harmful trope that a guy has the power to save a girl and make everything alright. This is obviously not true (sorry, guys) and especially a red flag when the issue being "fixed" has to do with mental health.
As for Charlie, his eating disorder was also never handled properly. It's revealed that he attempted to kill himself and as a result went to the hospital (where I assume he had doctors/therapists) BUT now he's out, and there is no mention of him having a doctor or any type of support system. On top of that, Nick seems to be the main caretaker of Charlie. This is alarming seeing as they are teenage boys who are in a relationship. First of all, where tf are your parents? Secondly, does this not add an unhealthy element to their relationship? There is a scene in which Charlie and Nick get into a fight during mealtime and Nick leaves Charlie. When Tori finds out what's happened, she yells at Nick as if it is his burden to shoulder to look after Charlie and ensure that he's eating. I'm honestly confused about how Charlie's mental health was handled and a little bit enraged.
Okay, that was it. I know it was kind of messy, but hopefully it does the trick in place of my video.
Now I can finally put this behind me and go back to obsessing over Radio Silence in peace thank the gods..okay byeeeeeeee
Read this review and more on my blog
In a nutshell: Solitaire is the newest addition to my favourites list. It was such an engaging read with well-developed and realistic characters.
Solitaire first came to my attention - like a lot of readers - via Tumblr. I was scrolling on my dashboard when I saw a post about someone who was only just older than I was and her debut novel. From the beginning, I was really interested in this story and I admired the author so much. It was this, a pretty cover, and great reviews that inspired me to check it out. The main reason, though, was my best friend. She is a huge fan of Solitaire and Alice Oseman, and I really hoped that I would be able to love this book and I did!
One of my favourite things about Solitaire was its tone. I've rarely read books that have captured teen life as effectively as this one does. It's such a raw, realistic look into school and life, which handles powerful themes and social/emotional issues. Honestly, YA contemporary is not my favourite genre and I often feel a detachment from these novels, but I didn't feel that with Solitaire. It felt real and it was so nice to know that the author gets it: life, school, friends, family, being a teenager, and whatever else.
Tori Spring is an introvert, a blogger, and a pessimist. Tori's voice was such a significant element of the book and I could relate to her quite a bit. I appreciated her growth throughout the book and her relationship with other characters, especially Michael (Tori's friend) and Charlie (Tori's brother). I was particularly fond of those two as characters, but all of them seemed to leap off the pages and stand out in their own way. The fact that there was no romance was so refreshing and another reason why I loved this book so much.
I was actually surprised by Solitaire's role in the book. It was mostly a character-driven novel and Solitaire itself was almost in the background, which I wasn't expecting. It was intriguing, but I did like that the focus was more on the characters and how they reacted to the pranks.
Another thing I loved in Solitaire was its references. Just little mentions of things like Tumblr, Harry Potter and Waterstones were great. I'm originally from England so specific references relating to English things were nice to read. References in books are one of those things that in retrospect are so small, but I really appreciate them if they're done right.
Solitaire was an engaging read that I struggled to put down and I loved its writing style. It was the kind of debut that stands out to me and I'm looking forward to reading more of Alice Oseman's books in the future! I'd recommend Solitaire to pretty much anyone but especially fans of YA realistic fiction.
Just because someone smiles doesn’t mean that they’re happy.
This isn’t a book about happy people. I don’t even think this book was made for happy people, they would dislike it, say everything inside this book is utter bullshit. But it isn’t. It’s the absolute truth.
This book broke me, I think I’m reading it at the exact right moment in my life. 16-year-old me wouldn’t have liked it all that much, she would have sympathised with the characters, but she wouldn’t have understood them like 21-year-old me did.
This is the story of sad & introvert Tori Spring. Nothing about being sad or introvert is wrong. That’s just the way she is. And yet people judge her for being like this. This say she doesn’t try enough to make friends, or to care about anything, and maybe it’s true, it probably is, but they’re not her. They don’t understand what’s going on inside her head. They don’t know how much she actually cares about her brother Charlie, the best person in the entire world, or how the things that happened to him broke her because he’s her little brother and nothing bad should happen to him. They don’t know that she’s sad 95% of the time but can do nothing about it because this isn’t just her deciding to be sad, this is her experiencing her life. Tori Spring was born in a world in which you should smile all the time and answer ‘I’m fine’ to every ‘How are you?’ Tori Spring was born into an extrovert and fake happy world, but why should she bend to the world’s will and be like that as well? This isn’t her.
One day she meets angry boy Michael Holden. Angry at the world for expecting him to be someone he’s not. Angry at people for thinking him weird and not worthy of their attention and respect when he’s just being himself. Angry all the time. But hiding it. Hiding it because people would judge him even more, they would make him feel even more lonely than he is now. Michael Holden is the softest boy you will ever meet. He’s angry but that doesn’t he isn’t trying to make Tori happy, really happy, not fake. He’s not trying to save her, she doesn’t need to be saved, she needs to see she’s not alone in this world, that people like her exist. Michael Holden doesn’t want to save her, and he doesn’t need to be saved either. They just both need someone to help them. And their this person for each other.
Ultimately this is a book about family and friendship. The family dynamic between the Spring siblings is one of the best I’ve read about. They’re a bunch of precious human beings who deserve for good things to happen to them. They’re trying to make their way through this world the best way they can, sometimes they fail, but they got each other to help them get up when they fall.
This book isn’t perfect, but it was perfectly real, and I needed it.
There comes a point, though, when you can’t keep looking after other people any more. You have to start looking after yourself.