A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
I’ve just this minute read the last page of The Manifesto on How to be Interesting by Holly Bourne. The tears are still trickling down my face, I have a massive pile of sodden screwed up tissues in front of me and I am sniffing loudly and very unattractively. (That’s a nice mental image for you!) Oh so much emotional meltdown I barely know where to start.
Bree is one of the invisibles. She’s pretty much ignored at school but she doesn’t care much because she’s interested in writing and literature and art and has a dream of becoming a published writer. She spends her spare time writing and drinking expensive red wine with her best friend Holdo. She also has a self-harming habit which has left her both mentally and physically scarred. When her English teacher, a teacher she may have kissed once, tells her she’ll never get a 110,000 word novel about suicide published, Bree makes some changes. Bree reinvents herself as someone interesting. And blogs about the transformation. The Manifesto on How to be Interesting is born.
It comes as a bit of a shock to Bree how simple it is for her to break into the “Perfects” clique with a quick makeover. Her mother, who Bree has barely spoken to for years excitedly joins in to help with new hair and new clothes and shoes she can barely walk in. But the transformation is astonishing and soon Bree is partying with the people who have spent years making her miserable.
There are so many issues in this novel and revealing some of them would give away spoilers so I’ll try not to go there. Suffice to say Bree has an utter car crash of a time once she’s become a Perfect. She definitely suffers for her art. But these issues are tackled with such a skilful hand and often played off with humour that the novel never seems heavy or preachy or exploitative. Bree herself is a wonderful character who you immediately warm to, the revelations she has all the way through the novel seem to me very true for a seventeen year old on a journey of self discovery. And more so the discoveries Bree makes about the people around her are so brilliantly drawn. The secondary characters are full of their own flaws and mixes of light and shade, no one is a stock goodie or baddy which plays havoc with your emotions as you read. The humour throughout is fabulous, with witty and dry comments and observations. The horribly accurate portrayal of school life made me shudder with repressed memories though…so much angst!
As I continue to sniffle in a totally imperfect way over the just perfect ending I have to highly recommend The Manifest on How to be Interesting. Definitely a book for the upper teen readers (and ALL adult readers!) because of the content, but I can guarantee they’ll love it!
P.S…The Ugly Duchess up there isn’t random, it’s part of the story. I loved the picture so much I felt compelled to include it here. Forgive me!
On Monday, Simon will talk about the long-delayed joy of Beverley Nichols.
On Wednesday, we’ll have a Vulpes Random – tbd (EXCITING, no?)
On Friday, Hilary feeds her dreams of actually living in an actual bookshop with Jeremy Mercer’s memoir 'Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs. The Left Bank World of Shakespeare & Co.'