I sometimes wonder how Alice Oseman feels about the fact her debut novel about a sad teenage girl got some very good attention, but her spin-off graphic novel series about the character’s little brother and boyfriend are what catapulted her into the title of one of the best and most important young-adult writers of our time. I bet she doesn’t mind. The Heartstopper comics are what introduced me to this world, and I knew eventually I’d find out what Tori has been up to in the background. Since Alice is currently taking a break from Heartstopper to rest up (I can’t blame her, she must be exhausted making our hearts melt for five years with her comic) I thought I’d finally get to it and I’m happy I got to finally really get to know her. Tori, I mean. But I’d absolutely love to meet Alice someday.
If someone told me a long time ago I would amount to nothing and I believed them, I’d be just like how Tori is. I wonder who told her that and when. She hates school, she hates socializing, and she hates the pressure of having the few friends who have decided she’s worth their effort to keep. The only things she really loves doing are complaining about life on her blog, watching movies in the wee hours of the night, usually ones she’s already seen, and sleeping when everyone else is bustling around.
She’s reading Pride and Prejudice in English and absolutely hates the book and the movie. I haven’t read the book but I’d have to agree with her about the story in general; almost every female character absolutely swoons over the possibility of a man marrying them and taking care of their needs, which I’m glad is a retro way of thinking. Tori and I both would agree that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are the only truly relatable characters. Tori sees Mr. Darcy as the most relatable and misunderstood, so maybe there’s a bit of connection there.
But this story isn’t about Tori using Jane Austen to open up. Something odd is happening at her school. Pranks are taking place like crazy; intercoms sabotaged, stink bombs going off, computers locked down, secrets being revealed, it’s total chaos. All that’s known is it’s from a group, or an individual, who runs a blog called Solitaire, and sometimes goes by Patience Kills. Tori is honestly not really interested in finding out what the deal is. She’s more interested in this strange triangle she’s a part of right now between Lucas Ryan, one of her childhood friends who she used to play Pokemon with, having transferred to her school, and Michael Holden, a rather eccentric and tall lad who’s seen as the school weirdo and study flunky who’s shown an abnormal interest in her. “Why the heck would anyone want to properly get to know her?” is a question that races through Tori’s own mind day in and day out.
Solitaire is a book that’s easy to get into. The pranks are a lot of fun, and those in high school reading this will imagine what kind of schemes they could wire against their least favorite teachers and those who have graduated high school will reminisce about what they wish they could’ve once done. And Tori is extremely relatable as who we are when we’re in a state of being fed up with the world, only she never really recovers. You could almost say it’s therapeutic when we think we might be shy and insecure but not as much as her. The book is told in a gentle and undemanding way, with a reasonable amount of distraction when we learn about her views on pop culture. You get the impression she has good taste in movies but would benefit from ones with more optimism.
Alice is an author who keeps her books connected in the same universe, and even though I already knew a fair bit of these characters, I got the impression I would’ve enjoyed meeting them if I was reading about them for the first time, because I felt that way towards those who were new to me; Becky, Lucas and Michael. I also enjoyed that the characters were often forgiving, whenever someone does something that accidentally or mildly intentionally hurts someone else. Hearing someone out when they make a mistake can really make all the difference in life.
I would’ve easily given this three stars if there weren’t some noticeable vacancies in the third act. Some things are revealed about the Solitaire rebellion but not enough. Tensions between Tori and her mom don’t end up resolved at all. Readers of Heartstopper will know what the issue is with Ben, but readers of this book who haven’t read Heartstopper will be left in the dark (but admittedly could probably guess). And though I understood Tori’s pessimism for about 80% of the book, throughout her tale she is told constantly by her friends, and frankly herself, that she doesn’t have to be this way. But nearing the end she kept going on and on and on like this, with sarcastic speeches and pushing people away and regretting them a second later every single time. It got tiring. I felt this story would’ve been much more worth the journey if we got to feel Tori blossomed more.
But for most of Solitaire, it is a book perfect for the angry, annoyed, introverted and insecure teenagers of our generation – in other words, every teenager deep down.
If you like this, I’d try One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus