About the book:
Pretending : A Novel
Author: Holly Bourne
On Sale Date: November 17, 2020
In this hilarious and heartbreaking debut novel perfect for fans of Fleabag, a woman struggling to move on after a traumatic relationship pretends to be “the perfect girl” in an act of vengeance that goes awry when she finds herself emotionally compromised.
He said he was looking for a ‘partner in crime’ which everyone knows is shorthand for ‘a woman who isn’t real’.
April is kind, pretty, and relatively normal – yet she can’t seem to get past date five. Every time she thinks she’s found someone to trust, they reveal themselves to be awful, leaving her heartbroken. And angry. Until she realizes that what men are really looking for is Gretel.
Gretel is perfect – beautiful but low maintenance, sweet but never clingy, sexy but not a slut. She’s a Regular Everyday Manic Pixie Dream Girl Next Door With No Problems.
When April starts pretending to be Gretel, dating becomes much more fun – especially once she reels in the unsuspecting Joshua. Finally, April is the one in control, but can she control her own feelings? And as she and Joshua grow closer, how long will she be able to keep pretending?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Holly Bourne is a bestselling UK-based YA and Adult Fiction author and is an Ambassador for Women’s Aid. In 2019, she was an Author of the Day at the London Book Fair, and was named by Elle Magazine’s weekly podcast as one of “Six Female Authors Changing the Conversation in 2019”. Pretending is her US debut.
Author website: https://hollybourne.co.uk/
Excerpt from Pretending:
I hate men.
There, I’ve said it. I know you’re not supposed to say it. We all pretend we don’t hate them; we all tell ourselves we don’t hate them. But I’m calling it. I’m standing here on this soapbox, and I’m saying it.
I. Hate. Men.
I mean, think about it. They’re just awful. I hate how selfish they are. How they take up so much space, assuming it’s always theirs to take. How they spread out their legs on public transport, like their balls need regular airing to stop them developing damp. I hate how they basically scent mark anywhere they enter to make it work for them. Putting on the music they want to listen to the moment they arrive at any house party, and always taking the nicest chair. How they touch your stuff instead of just looking; even tweak the furniture arrangement to make it most comfortable for them. All without asking first—never asking first.
I hate how they think their interests are more important than yours—even though twice a week all most of them do is watch a bunch of strangers kick a circle around a piece of lawn and sulk if the circle doesn’t go in the right place. And how bored they look if you ever try to introduce them to a film, a band, or even a freaking YouTube clip, before you’ve even pressed Play.
I hate their endless arrogance. I hate how they interrupt you and then apologize for it but carry on talking anyway. How they ask you a question but then check your answer afterward. I hate how they can never do one piece of housework without telling you about it. I hate how they literally cannot handle being driven in a car by a woman, even if they’re terrible drivers themselves. I hate how they all think they’re fucking incredible at grilling meat on barbecues. The sun comes out and man must light fire and not let woman anywhere near the meat. Dumping blackened bits of chicken onto our plates along with the whiff of a burp from their beer breath, acting all caveman, like we’re supposed to find it cute that we may now get salmonella and that we’re going to have to do all the washing up.
I hate how I’m quite scared of them. I hate the collective noise of them when they’re in a big group. The tribal wahey-ing, like they all swap their IQs for extra testosterone when they swarm together. How, if you’re sitting alone on an empty train, they always come and deliberately sit next to you en masse, and talk extra loudly about macho nonsense, apparently to impress you. I hate the way they look at you when you walk past—automatically judging your screwability the moment they see you. Telling you to smile if you dare look anything other than delighted about living with stuff like this constantly fucking happening to you.
I hate how hard they are to love. How many of them actually, truly, think the way to your heart is sending you a selfie of them tugging themselves, hairy ball sack very much still in shot. I hate how they have sex. How they shove their fingers into you, thinking it’s going to achieve anything. Jabbing their unwashed hands into your dry vagina, prodding about like they’re checking for prostate cancer, then wondering why you now have BV and you still haven’t come. Have none of them read a sex manual? Seriously? None of them? And I hate how they hate you a little just after they’ve finished. How even the nice ones lie there with cold eyes, pretending to cuddle, but clearly desperate to get as far away from you as possible.
I hate how it’s never equal. How they expect you to do all the emotional labor and then get upset when you’re the more stressed-out one. I hate how they never understand you, no matter how hard they try, although, let’s be honest here, they never actually try that hard. And I hate how you’re always exhausting yourself trying to explain even the most basic of your rational emotional responses to their bored face.
I hate how every single last one of them has issues with their father.
And do you know what I hate most of all?
That despite this, despite all this disdain, I still fancy men. And I still want them to fancy me, to want me, to love me. I hate myself for how much I want them. Why do I still fancy men so much? What’s wrong with me? Why are they all so broken? Am I broken for still wanting to be with one, even after everything? I should be alone. That’s the only healthy way to be. BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE. I hate men, that’s the problem. GOD I HATE THEM SO MUCH—they’re so entitled and broken and lazy and wrong and…and…
HE MESSAGED BACK!!!
WITH A KISS ON THE END!
Forget I said anything. It’s all good.
Excerpted from Pretending by Holly Bourne, Copyright © 2020 by Holly Bourne. Published by MIRA Books.
**SOME POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD**
This cover and the Goodreads blurb honestly did not prepare me for the tone of this book in any way. This was a good read, but a heavier one than I was anticipating, definitely not the light quirky rom-com I was thinking it would be. Was there romance and some comedy weaved in there?…Sure, but this was a brutally honest, raw, emotionally packed story of a woman struggling to deal with trauma. There should undoubtedly be some trigger warnings attached to this one, it deals heavily in rape/sexual assault.
There was times when this book was hard to read, emotionally. I cringed at some parts, mainly in how painfully merciless April could be with herself in such stark contrast to how understanding and kind she could be with others in distress and pain. Which is relatable at its core, quite frequently we are our own toughest critics, but also it chillingly articulated that extra level of self blame so many that have been through trauma experience.
Even when painful, watching April go through some really dark times and emotions, it was also hopeful and heartwarming in the times that she was facing things head on, finding her voice/power and safe places and people. The boxing class in particular really just struck a powerful emotional cord for me. It could also be funny at times, how (albeit kinda cruelly sometimes) April was in her critical analysis of men, but still notes of humor in the truthfulness in there. I think the deepness of her hurt overshadows a lot of humor within for the reader though.
To be honest I cared much less about April’s relationship with Joshua than her relationship with herself. I liked that, that part was always at the forefront of this book. And while it maybe wasn’t the nicest or the fairest to use Joshua as a tool in this process, at least initially, it was very fitting in where April was at that point in her journey and I could understand it very clearly. I thought it ended in a fairly good tone too. Not too HEA (which wouldn’t have fit with the rest of the story) but with April personally doing better and mostly content on the path she was on. Still a work in progress, but progress being made, much like the rest of us.
I could see this one being a great book club book. Sparking a lot of good conversation about important things that aren’t frequently talked about. Also, would be great to have a buddy (much like the buddy system in the charity April worked at!) to emotionally lean on while reading.
I received an ARC of this book from Harlequin Trade Publishing and this is my honest review.