Pretending by Holly Bourne – Book Review

Title: Pretending

Author: Holly Bourne

Genre / Themes: Adult Contemporary, Relationships, Mental Health, Sexual Assault

Blurb from Goodreads

April is kind, pretty, and relatively normal – yet she can’t seem to get past date five. Every time she thinks she’s found someone to trust, they reveal themselves to be awful, leaving her heartbroken. And angry.

If only April could be more like Gretel.

Gretel is exactly what men want – she’s a Regular Everyday Manic Pixie Dream Girl Next Door With No Problems.

The problem is, Gretel isn’t real. And April is now claiming to be her.

As soon as April starts ‘being‘ Gretel, dating becomes much more fun – especially once she reels in the unsuspecting Joshua.

Finally, April is the one in control, but can she control her own feelings? And as she and Joshua grow closer, how long will she be able to keep pretending?

My Review

I think at this stage it’s safe to say that Holly Bourne is an auto buy author for me. I bought this book on kindle about five minutes after it was released because I just couldn’t wait to get a physical copy once all the COVID-19 lockdowns are over.

And I really enjoyed this book in the early stages. I found it very darkly comedic and utterly laden with truth bombs about what it’s like to be a heterosexual woman dating in a world that favours the male.

But the more I read, the more jaded I became with the storyline. And I think this is because Holly Bourne hasn’t yet discovered the art of nuance in her writing and ultimately this book had more than a passing resemblance to her most recent YA release, The Places I’ve Cried in Public, which I only read two weeks ago and it felt somewhat redundant. Which I am not pleased about AT ALL!

Because this book deals with a woman named April dating after she has been the victim of rape by her ex boyfriend. A rape that took her years to process. A rape that she feels guilty about calling a rape because she didn’t scream at the top of her lungs and say no. A rape that made her body stress so much that physical intimacy is something that she needs to be retrained in using medical-grade vaginal dilators.

And honestly the way that April is written is brilliant. She’s so wonderfully complex. Her recovery story is very sensitively written and this book really exposes all her thoughts and trauma in a way that would bring tears from a stone.

So why am I less than pleased? Because while this book is incredibly important and I praise the way the novel tackles sexual assault and female agency… it feels stale to me and that’s because I’ve read so much Holly Bourne in the past.

Her books are becoming interchangeable.

The plots are bleeding together and it feels like I’m continually reading books about the same characters, the same key issues…

I just need Bourne to find a new angle.

I need her to develop the supporting characters as much as she develops her leads.

I need there to be a little bit more plot.

And I need her to stop teaching feminism with her books…

Don’t get me wrong I love that her books are unashamedly feminist. But it feels a very one dimensional sort of feminism. Her stories feel very calculated in that they are designed to make us outraged about equality of the sexes in a singular fashion. I want her to write with a little more subtlety. Let her readers make their own minds up instead of spoon feeding them the emotions they *should* be having. I hate to compare anyone to Margaret Atwood because I am not an Atwood fan…but Bourne is reminding me of Atwood’s brand of feminism. All telling and no showing. If Bourne gave her readers more credit and she embraced a more nuanced approach to writing her plots then I think then she could be a truly special author.

So while I enjoyed this book and found it to be an accessible read filled with great moments, I would only recommend it to new Holly Bourne readers as I feel it would simply feel jaded to anyone who has read as many of her novels as I have.

Other Works by Holly Bourne I’ve Reviewed

My Socials

13 thoughts on “Pretending by Holly Bourne – Book Review

  1. That’s really a shame! I can totally understand this though. Sometimes authors need to break out from what they usually do.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry this book left you wanting more! I totally get what you mean with what you’ve said though. Sometimes when you’ve read so much by an author their books just end up feeling like the same thing and that’s the worst! 😦 I still haven’t read anything by this author but I did order The Places I’ve Cried in Public after reading your review last week(?) and I’m excited to get it 😀 Great review, Emer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In many ways I wish I had read this before The Places I’ve Cried in Public because this is a better book… which is strange when you consider my ratings. A lot of enjoyment of a book I think is based on when we read it and I think I’ve just hit my holly Bourne limit these days. Need to wait a good while before I read something else by her! 🙈


  3. Ahh, I totally understand what you’re describing here. I’ve felt something similar with a different YA author after reading their latest book. I feel like it’s hard to talk about, because I adore the author’s writing and I want to keep reading more of it… but I also want them to tell more than the same story over and over? The tricky part is that I don’t want to sound entitled/bossy by sharing these opinions, haha – I also think writers should write whatever they want. I haven’t read Bourne but I hope her writing continues to evolve so you can appreciate it further!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Exactly. You get it Jenna. I do just feel that Bourne has stagnated a little bit with her ideas and stories but she’s still a tremendous writer. I’m hoping that she’ll find some new inspiration for whatever she will write next :)))

      Liked by 1 person

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