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Only for the Holidays by Abiola Bello - Review

Sunday, December 31, 2023

I saw a recommendation for this book on Twitter and bought it when it was 99p. I saved it to read over Christmas but it took me absolutely forever because I just really didn't enjoy it. I'm trying to work out whether it's just me and whether the book just wasn't a good fit for me, or whether it is actually bad. I read a few of the two and one star reviews to see if people agreed with me and actually I think that this is just somewhat of a bad book. 

The book is dual narrative, from the points of view of Quincy and Tia. Quincy lives on a farm in a rural town where his family is basically the only Black family in the area. They run the farm with several holiday cottages and have a fancy restaurant and stuff. Quincy is the youngest of three - his sister Drew is an internet sensation and his brother Cam is a DJ. Quincy is still at college. He had a girlfriend, Kali, but before the beginning of the book he found out that she slept with his best friend Simon and he hasn't spoken to either of them since. He's still heartbroken and concentrating on the horses and working and stuff, but he's pretty miserable. 

Tia lives in Peckham with her mum and sisters. Her older sister Willow and she have the same dad, who now lives in America. Their little sister, Banks, is only four. Her dad, Paul, is still around, but their Mum, Tope, and he are no longer together. Tope lost her job and the family had to move and it's all been a lot of upheaval for Tia. Tia has a boyfriend, Mike, who is a bit of a dickhead. Her best friend is called Remi and I wish we had seen more of her, to be honest. Mike is about to turn eighteen and Tia has been organising all of his party and is going to take the cake. However, Tia is feeling a bit underappreciated by him - he has never told her that he loves her and he's just a bit of a loser. He asks her for some space but she isn't really sure what that is supposed to mean. 

Then Tope announces that she's been given a two week (or even more?) trip to Quincy's farm to stay in one of the cottages. She needs the break so she takes her kids down there. But there's a mix up with the booking and the cottages are all full. Instead, Tia's family ends up staying in Quincy's house itself. Tia is not happy about the holiday and is determined to not enjoy herself - especially as she definitely doesn't like horses or sheep or the lack of internet. 

Quincy's family is holding a ball this Christmas, and it's a big deal because they're the first Black family to do so. Quincy doesn't have a date so he makes up a girl called Leah, but then of course he asks Tia for a favour. She says she will goes as his date if he will help her get back to London for Mike's party to sort everything out. They have to fake it in front of his friends and it nearly all goes wrong, but the two of them find themselves falling for each other anyway... 

I just felt like there were too many tropes in the book, including the fact that Tia loves baking and that they go ice skating and blah blah blah. It needed about half of it cutting out, I swear. 

One of my main criticisms was that this book felt like an American novel that had somehow been transported to the south of England. Some American things seemed to remain, like that every teenager had a fancy car (maybe they were just rich?) and just some other weird stuff. I also didn't get why Tia and her family had to go to the farm like at the beginning of December. Would a mum really take her kids out of school and college for so long? It did give Tia and Quincy time to get to know each other, which is why I suspect it was done, but it just didn't seem real. Maybe I needed to suspend my disbelief for the whole book, though! 

I'm giving this two out of five, unfortunately. Sorry, just not for me. 

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