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Solitaire, This Winter, and Nick & Charlie, by Alice Oseman - Reviews

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Recently, I picked up Solitaire by Alice Oseman because as part of a reading challenge I needed to read a book by an author younger than me and I know that Alice is a lot younger than me, I think she's 22 this year. I started reading it and mentioned it to my YA loving friend when I saw her at Sheffield Zine Fest last weekend. She didn't like the book very much, so I was wondering how I'd find it because we usually have similar tastes in books. She did mention though that there was a novella about the same characters. 

When I finished Solitaire - which I liked a lot! - I went looking for the novella and found that there are in fact two! One is set a couple of weeks before the events of Solitaire, and one is set a couple of months afterwards. I bought both and read them in the same day, I really enjoyed them too. I thought I'd review all three books at the same time. 

Where did I get it? I bought it at YA Shot in 2015, when Alice was on a panel there. It's signed to me!

What's it about? In Solitaire, Tori Spring is in her first year of 6th form and she is just really sad and depressed. She doesn't have any hobbies except for spending hours on the internet, and she doesn't have many friends. Her friend Becky is getting obsessed with a new boy, which doesn't help. One day, Tori follows a series of post it notes through school and ends up meeting a new student at school, Michael Holden. He then introduces her to Lucas, who she used to know.

Meanwhile, a guerilla group called Solitaire is wreaking havoc on the school, and through its choices, it seems like they are targetting Tori in particular. Plus, at home things aren't great either - Tori's brother Charlie has been in hospital due to his anorexia, and the family is still reeling from that.

This Winter is set just a couple of weeks before Solitaire, and is set at Christmas, just after Charlie has returned from hospital. Part of it is from Tori's point of view and part of it is from Charlie's. I really liked Charlie as a character and would have liked to read more from his

Nick & Charlie is set a couple of months after Solitaire, but doesn't have much to do with the events of that book. It's about Nick (Charlie's boyfriend, present in all three books) leaving school and preparing to go to university and the impact that has on their relationship. It's very sweet and lovely, I really enjoyed it. 

Now, I appreciate that Alice was very young when writing Solitaire, and it does show in parts. The writing is clunky in some bits and overstated in others. But writing is a craft and you only get better with practice. There are some gorgeous turns of phrase, and I really liked how Alice got across the sadness and ennui that Tori feels. I really enjoyed all three books and I'm glad to have read them. I've got Alice's other novel, Radio Silence, sitting around somewhere, and I would definitely pick it up soon

What age range is it for? 15+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Charlie

Are any main characters people of colour? No

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, Charlie, and if you want my armchair opinion Tori could benefit from some counselling and medication too.

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, in Nick & Charlie, it's very, very mild. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? I think there might be like one mention of weed, and there's some alcohol use

Is there any talk of death? Not much

Are there swear words? Yes, infrequent though. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, especially if you are that age and in sixth form.

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? As above, I wanted to read a young author for my challenge.

What other books is it like? Gosh, I don't know. It's fairly typical of contemporary UK novels. I think if you like it, you might also like Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. It's also about a teenage girl who is depressed and bored.

How many stars? Seven out of ten.

Where is the book going now? I'm going to keep it as it's signed, of course. 

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