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?
Genre: Women's Fiction
Format: Kindle ARC
No. of Pages: 416
Date of Publication: November 17, 2020
My Rating: 4 Stars
Well over 100 times. What, may you ask? The phrase "I Hate Men". I must to admit asking myself why I kept reading a book that opened with and kept using that very phrase. But, read on I did and I truly get why our primary protagonist April had that view of men. Dating was an ultimate fail for April and she truly wants that to change that.
Then there is Gretel. The ideal woman as far as April is concerned. So, in her own way she begins to catfish her future dates by becoming the true embodiment of the person Gretel is - brash, beautiful, fun and more. When April is Gretel she has confidence, confidence she never had before. However, all the while the men she begins to meet continue to disappoint her in one way or another. Then, April meets Joshua - as Gretel - and things begin to look up.
What will April do now? How will she be able to become herself without losing Joshua once he discovers the truth?
There is a catch while reading this book. It is THE very reason April hates men and this is where this review is forced to take on a more serious note. April dealt with sexual assault in a previous relationship. This makes it necessary to present the reader of this review with a trigger warning. I never had the exact experience that April had, but I had enough of life's bad experiences that this was almost enough to stop me from reading this book more than once.
That being said I did read the book through. I really got into April's head and even her heart. I could see why she felt she had to become someone else, and I really began to feel for her when it seemed she finally found the right guy. This led me to want to know how that would work itself out.
This book is said to be humorous. That would be about my only real negative beyond the triggering effect this book had. I felt it to be quite serious, even if April went through a comedy of errors during some of her dates.
So, dear reader, if you can get past the negative points I bring out in this review, then take this book, grab a cup of coffee and find a comfortable spot and take the ride with April/Gretel/April as we see her looking for love. I think as this book deals with serious issues it does indeed deliver important and powerful lessons.
Having not read Holly Bourne before I cannot speak as to whether or not this is her style of writing. But, for an American debut novel, she certainly has made herself stand out.
Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Please enjoy the following excerpt:
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.
Author website: https://hollybourne.co.uk/
Author website: https://hollybourne.co.uk/