Solitaire by Alice Oseman

Challenge 15 ~ “A popular author’s first book”


★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Until recently, I never realised the heated debate that existed around this book. I remember this being a book everyone was reading and had an opinion on (that was usually positive!) all over the tumblr community, and yet goodreads seems to be loaded with a wide, wide dislike of Tori’s character. I’ll admit there were times I found her a little too whiny or melodramatic, but she wasn’t that bad. And as for her “stereotypical and minimalised” case of depression, it is important to realise that some people will suffer in a typical way, and that mental illness doesn’t need to be the defining feature of a character. It wasn’t like Oseman made her characters paper-thin, unrealistic or just drab (which I have seen in many other books)!

So Tori aside (because whilst the protagonist is important, they aren’t the be-all and end-all), I found Oseman’s novel a fun, well-written and enjoyable read. It started strong with a concrete introduction to both the world and the people Tori regularly interacts with. Before long, the reader is thrown into the plot with the discovery of Solitaire’s first move, and so the mystery begins. All too easily the reader can become lost in the plot, with pages spinning by unnoticed right up to the final page. Loose endings are not tied so neatly, and hang, taunting, hinting of the world that will continue to turn after the last page.

For me, there were two points that stopped Solitaire from quite achieving the five stars: the predictability of the ending, and the Lucas/Tori sideline. The former felt rushed. An expected ending is not usually an issue, particularly if it can conclude the story neatly and in a strong literary manner, but there were so many possibilities left that it felt as if Oseman had picked the quickest, easiest and most obvious, and simply ploughed straight through without considering its relevance. Similarly, the Lucas/Tori sideline felt as if Oseman had picked a typical sideline story from young adult literature, and thrown it into the Solitaire mix without considering its place – there were plenty of other well-balanced and thoughtful sidelines, that the Lucas/Tori debacle was a) not necessary and b) detracting from the clever plot Oseman started with.

As a complete novel, I found an enjoyable and novel contemporary book, with only a few minor points of contention. The characters were realistic, references up-to-date and targeted at the audience, and the writing style both in character and easy to read. Oseman manages to highlight how easily a good idea can get out of hand, whilst also raising the importance of challenging our basic everyday routine. Particularly for a first published work, an on-point read with a true connection to the young adult audience.

Recommended for fans of:

  • I Was Here by Gayle Forman
  • Dare Me by Megan Abbott
  • The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

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