Title: Love is for Losers (review copy)
Author: Wibke Brueggeman
Genre/Themes: Young Adult Contemporary, Darkly Comic, Romance, Coming of Age, Personal Growth, Parental Absence, LGBTQ+
Blurb from Goodreads
A laugh out loud look at first love, loss and trying to avoid the girl of your dreams.
What a stupid expression that is in the first place: To fall in love.
Like you fall into a ditch or something.
Maybe people need to look where they’re going.
As far as Phoebe Davies is concerned, love is to be avoided at all costs. Why would you spend your life worrying about something that turns you into a complete moron? If her best friend Polly is anything to go by, the first sniff of a relationship makes you forget about your friends (like, hello?), get completely obsessed with sex (yawn) and bang on constantly about a person who definitely isn’t as great as you think they are.
So Phoebe isn’t going to fall in love, ever.
But then she meets Emma . . .
Love is for Losers by Wibke Brueggemann is a hilarious, life-affirming novel about all the big stuff: love, sex, death, family, heartbreak, kittens . . . and kisses that turn the whole world upside down.
This was such an engaging read. So honest and funny, and at times so heartbreaking.
A lot of the times in YA we complain that the characters don’t act or sound like teenagers. Well in this book Phoebe the MC is 100% a teenager. She’s 15 years old and is the most glorious medley of personality traits that all blend together to make her feel entirely authentic.
Phoebe isn’t always likeable.
She certainly has some dodgy opinions throughout the book… but that’s what makes her human. She makes mistake after mistake.
Case in point the Down Syndrome rep. There’s a character in the book called Alex who has Down Syndrome and initially Phoebe is so awkward around him and honestly…not that nice. But she actively tries to understand what being a person with Down Syndrome means by informing herself with a little bit of research and then one day she totally reprimands a girl at school for making disparaging remarks about Alex. It was just a great illustration of how we as people can go from a place of hurtful ignorance to enlightened with a little bit of effort.
And so that’s what you get in this book. You get a wickedly smart and caustically funny MC but an MC who sometimes doesn’t know right from wrong and has some problematic viewpoints and says entirely the wrong thing but she’s also someone who grows as the story develops.
And what’s so endearing about Phoebe is that her sarcastic sensibilities come from a place of utter insecurity. She lashes out with her tongue as a mechanism for self defence e.g. she’s forever making comments about what other girls at her school wear particularly when they want to embrace their female sexuality but this almost shaming comes from Phoebe’s own feelings of inadequacy and poor self-worth and her desire to somehow have their confidence.
Phoebe’s self confidence and self worth seems to be shattered because she feels that her mum doesn’t adequately love her. Her mum is a doctor for Médicins sans Frontières and frequently leaves Phoebe for months on end as she goes to help wherever there is a humanitarian crisis. During the course of the novel Phoebe’s mum is overseas and they only communicate through what’s app and Phoebe has to live with her godmother Kate. (And what an awesome character Kate is!)
But this maternal absence deeply affects Phoebe. She feels like her mum cares more about other people and therefore puts up so many barriers to protect herself from being hurt. So when her best friend Polly falls for a boy and begins to spend a lot of time with him Phoebe acts out and feels incredibly sinned against (and at times rightly so!)
So to fill her time (and pay a debt) Phoebe begins to work at the charity shop that Kate runs and there she meets a variety of new people of all ages including sixteen year old Emma who knocks Phoebe’s world into even more of a tailspin than she could ever have foreseen.
The book is written in a diary format which makes for a really engaging read as it immediately creates a sense of intimacy with the reader. We know Phoebe’s deepest, darkest thoughts and all her more outlandish ideas too! And we get to see her figure out that love isn’t something to be feared but instead is something to be embraced and exalted and that maybe love isn’t just for losers after all.
This book is perfectly paced, filled with great characters, extremely witty dialogue and hilariously salty observations about life but most importantly it has a beautiful love story that slowly creeps up on the MC that makes this a thoroughly memorable YA read. (I may have had to wipe away a few tears during those last few tender pages…)
*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*