Young Adult

The Manifesto on How to be Interesting by Holly Bourne

Blurb:

Apparently I’m boring. A nobody. But that’s all about to change. Because I am starting a new project. Here. Now. For myself. And if you want to come along for the ride then you’re very welcome.

Bree is by no means popular. Most of the time, she hates her life, her school, her never-there parents. So she writes.

But then Bree is told she needs to stop shutting the world out and start living a life worth writing about, The Manifesto on How to be Interesting is born.  A manifesto that will change everything…
… but the question is, at what cost?

Everyone can remember the names of the popular kids in their school, can’t they? You know the ones I mean, the ones that everybody wanted to be friends with, or just wanted to be, the ones that teased everyone mercilessly and yet were still looked up to. What if you had a chance to become part of that group, would you do it even if it meant changing who you were?

That’s what Bree does in The Manifesto on How to be Interesting. She makes herself interesting, raises her street cred overnight and infiltrates the popular crowd, all in the name of writing an exposé blog.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I think I bought it back in 2014 when it was first published and, for some reason, never read it. At the time, I was seventeen and very much into the YA genre. This meant I was a bit nervous when I found it at the back of my shelf yesterday, was it just going to be another trashy teen novel filled with clichés and written by someone who doesn’t understand the way that teenagers speak and act? Was reading it after the age of seventeen going to leave me cringing my way through it?

The answer is yes and no.  There were passages that made me roll my eyes and sigh at things the characters said or the way they acted but then I think that was partly to do with not being seventeen anymore – thank goodness! On the whole, however, Holly Bourne seems to know how to write teenagers; she hasn’t overemphasised their slang and jokes to the point that everything they say sounds stupid, but at the same time hasn’t shown them speaking like adults the way that some YA literature and films do.

Some aspects of the novel did seem a little bit ridiculous; for example, I call bullshit on a makeover being all you need to become popular. I’m also starting to reach the point where the whole teacher-student thing just feels wrong and not the height of forbidden romance, so that was interesting to revisit as an adult – I won’t be letting go of my love for Rose and Dimitri’s epic star-crossed love story though! On several occasions, I found myself wanting to shake the characters and tell them to stop being so dramatic, that life would get better after high school without having to change who you were.

And yet that’s exactly the point of the novel. When you’re seventeen, you don’t know that. You don’t know that eventually you will reach a point where you are okay with who you are, when you don’t want to be the same as the popular crowd, when you start to like your quirks and unique qualities. Let’s be honest, I probably would have done the same as a teenager and changed either my looks, my personality or both if I thought it would get me a little bit more street cred.

To summarise, yes, there were the occasional moments in this novel that did make me cringe but I would definitely recommend reading it, if only to remind yourself that being popular isn’t what matters in life. So, if you’re looking for a novel that reminds you that self-confidence is where it’s at and that not giving a damn if people don’t like you is the way to happiness, this is the story for you. After all, sometimes even us adults need help remembering that one.

You can buy The Manifesto on How to be Interesting by Holly Bourne from:

              From Amazon.

              From Waterstones.

              Or from wherever you usually buy your books.

Trigger warning: this novel does contain references to self-harm.

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