I love Holly Bourne. I didn’t know it was possible to love Holly Bourne even more, but it is.
I absolutely love the ‘Normal’ trilogy. I loved Evie’s story that kicked it off (‘Am I Normal Yet?’), and how Bourne expertly explored the issues of mental health in such a fresh, original way you couldn’t help but admire her writing. Amber’s story (‘How Hard Can Love Be?’) did not disappoint the build up that it’s prequel had given it. Bourne explored more issues which added to the characters’ complexities and I absolutely loved it. So I was already pretty much hyped for this novel.
I was not disappointed.
‘What’s a Girl Gotta Do?’, Lottie’s story, somehow came across as even more serious to me when I first started reading. Bourne expertly showed within the first few chapters why feminism is still needed in our society – seriously, who thinks it isn’t? I have never understood how feminism has come across as men-hating, or been dubbed as ‘feminazis’. All feminism means is fighting for equality. Just as much as its not okay for women to be objectified, neither is it for men.
In contrast to my friends, I couldn’t enjoy the film ‘Magic Mike’, because it had no story and I got bored half way through. On nights out with one of my friends, she has turned to me in a full pub and asked me if I ‘had my eye on anyone’. I reply with no, I was enjoying her company, while thinking to myself that if someone had said the same thing about me I would have been furious. They are not cattle at market! Just the same as I’ve gotten annoyed at an archery session when packing away, picking up one side of the heavy boss to have a middle aged bloke run up to me saying “Are you sure you’ll be okay with that? I can take it from you…” Yes, bosses are heavy, but I can deal. I am not a frail little waif. Among many, many other examples, but this is not a rant about my experiences.
This shows you how brilliant Bourne’s novel is – it fires you up and gets you angry enough to shout “Yes, this is still an important issue. Yes, this needs to be talked about!” Admittedly not in the same way that the suffragettes had to deal with, but equal rights is still something that many people have to fight for in today’s society.
In the first few chapters, Bourne details Lottie being the victim of sexual harassment when two men in a van think it appropriate to verbally abuse and threaten her – in the letter from Bourne at the end of the novel, she admits that this is something she has experienced herself. I have never understood why people think that cat calling is acceptable. If an axe murderer walked up to them holding a bloody axe with a hungry look in his eye, calling “YOUR FLESH IS APPEALING TO ME” and they ran away screaming “Leave me alone!” and the axe murderer shouts “CAN’T YOU TAKE A COMPLIMENT?” I’m sure they would be just as uncomfortable as they made other women feel – but this is essentially the same situation. One person feels threatened and uncomfortable and shouldn’t have to be put in that situation in the first place. But I digress.
Lottie’s day gets worse when a male acquaintance steals her point in a philosophy study group and passes it off as his own, then later she suspects a female acquaintance may have been sexually assaulted by an ex. This brilliantly shows Bourne’s point of the entire novel, and the entire point of Lottie’s feminism campaign that becomes the basis for the entire plot – that all the small sexism things that have become socially acceptable, pave the way for the darker, more horrible sexism e.g. rape culture to become socially acceptable. This will never not be an important issue.
What I really loved about this novel in particular, was Bourne didn’t glamourise Lottie for the entire novel. She showed the ups and downs that she had to endure through taking on the ambitious challenge of calling out all the sexism she saw. She showed all the abuse and how it took its toll on her as a character. This added to her characterisation and made her come across as a much more real, believeable character. Even showing Lottie’s cognitive dissonances made her such an enjoyable character to read about.
I love Bourne’s voice in her novels – it’s brilliantly fresh and original and makes her work so relatable. It just makes her writing seem so real and gritty – one of my favourite parts of this novel in particular was Lottie’s commentary when she got drunk on the way to a party. It was absolutely hilarious and helped lighten the mood of the seriousness of the novel. This was especially funny because it is definitely an experience that myself and I’m sure many others can relate to.
I would give it a 5/5 because Holly Bourne is brilliant and her writing is so relevant to issues that YA readers face. Loved it!