I have genuinely no idea what I want to rate this book.
It’s taken me a lot longer than I thought it would, for me to read it because it was genuinely so hard to get through. Tori is a depressed teenager who lives in a house where she’s tasked with taking care of her younger brothers, one is literally a seven-year-old and the other is dealing with an eating disorder (and maybe OCD???) and needs some quite serious and adult help, and on top of that her parents are basically absentee parents who do nothing but judge and belittle their children for daring to exist or live outside the binary.
Solitaire is a really complex and well-written novel about an angry girl with mental health issues. She’s angsty because so many teenagers are. She hates Disney and Twilight (and honestly, at her age, so did I), and she doesn’t know how to be happy. But, she makes a friend and she tries her hardest even though it feels like the entire world is on her shoulders dragging her down. The tag line for this book is that it’s “not a love story” and I’ve seen a lot of people dispute that, but I have to agree with the tag. I don’t think this is a love story at all. I think it’s a story about a young girl trying to continue living and trying to keep her family afloat despite not knowing how to. It’s about a girl who can barely stand herself, trying to live and trying to be better and I love Alice Oseman for writing this story. Yes, it is slightly a product of its time because we’re now in 2022, “The Age of Toxic Positivity”. But, teenagers are all different on the inside and some of them do try to break from the mould and they do that in small ways like hating the Top 40 on the radio and not liking Pride and Prejudice. And that’s fine. If we give teenagers the space and support they need to grow, then they will and I think that’s wonderful and that’s why I loved this book.
I’ve decided on a 4 star rating because this is a complicated and well-written novel. Bu,t on the surface level I genuinely wanted to give this only 2 stars because reading from the pov of a depressed teenager is genuinely hard and not fun at all.
But, I think that if we want to bitch about never getting to read from the pov of different character types and angry girls then we should appreciate them when they appear. Tori has a lot on her plate and is clearly depressed (I say this as someone who has never experienced depression, only anxiety) so I don’t think we can fault her for feeling the way that she feels or thinking the things that she thinks. Being a teenager is hard enough, let alone dealing with mental health issues. Yeah, this was a hard read and if you didn’t like it, you didn’t like it and that’s fair enough. But, I think this was a really clever novel, even if I didn’t enjoy actually reading it the whole time.
Also, just a quick heads up for any of the Hearstopper fans who maybe want to read this to see more of Nick and Charlie because they like the graphic novels or just saw the show. Charlie has a quite severe eating disorder and that is mostly what is talked about whenever he is mentioned. This isn’t a cute and fluffy book and it does deal with quite severe and important topics, generally around mental health. I just wanted to mention that, because I think it’s important. I don’t know what I was expecting walking into this, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for how heavy this was going to be. If you want a glimpse at the kind of tone of this book, I recommend reading This Winter by Alice Oseman. It’s a short 100-page prequel to Solitaire and will definitely give you an insight into this book without any spoilers.
Are you an Alice Oseman fan?
Have you read Solitaire?