I loved, loved, loved ‘Heartstopper’ by Alice Oseman, so it was but obvious for me to get curious about her other work. Solitaire’s cover proclaims it is not a love story. True. Here’s what it is instead – a cliched, irritating, repetitive story of Tori, a girl who constantly tries to convince us that she is “different”, but she is nothing but a whiny, ordinary, introverted teen with no real problems of her own (her younger brother Charlie has some serious issues though).
It’s pretty hard to like the book if you do not warm up to the protagonist, and Tori is just a very mediocre character. Oseman tries really hard to make the heroine of the story seem ‘cool’. And the plot is not very intriguing either. It’s about how an anonymous blog called ‘Solitaire’ starts orchestrating pranks in Tori’s school. Slowly, the pranks get sinister and a new boy at school called Micheal Holden believes that the blog has something to do with our heroine. So Michael Holden decides to solve the mystery of the anonymous blog with Tori (who is not interested) and this leads to an uncanny friendship.
The writing style is nice, nothing too impressive, but keeps you interested in flipping the pages. Like I said at the start, some of it is repetitive & irritating, for example, Tori keeps saying things like – “I don’t do much at all”/”I don’t want to do much at all”. We get it. She really doesn’t do much at all. The only bits I really enjoyed were Tori’s interactions with her younger brothers at home. They are filled with genuine sibling affection and makes the reader smile.
It’s commendable that the book attempts to explore issues like mental health problems, eating disorders, bullying, homophobia, but doesn’t go into the depth of the matter. So you have a very ‘touch & go’ approach to them and don’t feel emotional about what is happening. Instead a lot of it VERY PROBLEMATIC. At one point, I just kept reading because I wanted to know what happens at the end, not because it was enjoyable. There’s a difference between “ooh, so exciting, I really want to know what happens in the end” versus “ugh, can we just get to know what happens in the end please?”.
The biggest problem with the book is that it’s pretty predictable. There is one minor unexpected twist after the major one in the end, and it is so pretentious that I sighed out loud and skipped paragraphs. The end reminded me a little of Stephen King’s Carrie, you will only understand why if you read the book.
To Alice Oseman’s credit – she wrote ‘Solitaire’ when she was only 17. Well, that’s amazing and maybe that explains the immaturity plaguing the story. Doesn’t change the fact that this book was a disappointment. It’s a three on five for me.
FYI – This is book number 50 for the year!