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Holly Bourne worked as an editor and relationship advisor for a youth charity for six years before becoming a full-time author. Her bestselling YA fiction includes It Only Happens In the Movies, which was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018, and the critically acclaimed Spinster Club series. Holly is an advocate for reducing the stigma around mental health problems and has a keen interest in women’s rights. She lives in Lewes.
Photo credit L Bourne
June 2021 Book of the Month | Honest, authentic and (ultimately) uplifting, Holly Bourne’s The Yearbook will strike a powerful chord with young women on the brink of leaving secondary school. Realistically raw in its portrayal of toxic relationships (from poisonous school peers to abusive partners), with an underdog protagonist readers will wholeheartedly root for, and a sweet, slow-burning romance that will melt the most cynical of hearts, this is classic contemporary YA. Budding journalist Paige lives a lonely, isolated life - “the undeniable truth was that I was invisible as well as unlovable. Nobody could see me see me at all, let alone look at me and see the potential to store their heart there. People don’t fall in love with wallpaper. Or silence.” At the same time, her parents’ marriage shows the jeopardies of falling in love with the wrong person. She and her mum walk on eggshells around her erratic, coercively controlling dad who flips from jolly joker to enraged monster over the tiniest thing. At least Paige has the school newspaper to keep her occupied - until it’s hijacked by malicious narcissists from the official Leavers’ Committee who want to create a yearbook. As Paige’s family life disintegrates, she realises that the infiltrators steering the yearbook are re-writing history. The same goes for Paige’s dad and his ilk - people who think “they’re the hero of their own story, but, actually, in the pursuit of being so important, they’re often the villain of everyone else’s”. Thankfully, though, hope comes in the form of her independent-minded aunt Polly (“she seemed to genuinely care for me”) and soul-lifting Elijah, who supports Paige’s quest to find her voice and speak the truth after they meet through a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Interest Age Teen, Reading Age 8 | August 2019 Book of the Month | Holly Bourne weaves her special magic in this punchy, touching, believable story of female friendship. Sophia is heartbroken since being unceremoniously dumped by school heartthrob Aidan Chambers. Her best friends Mia and Alexis are sympathetic but certain Sophia is better off without him. Nonetheless, they’ll indulge her by trying a bit of amateur witchcraft if it’ll make her feel better. Their home-made spells conjure other things into the light including Mia’s self-harming, something everyone’s known about, but been unable to mention. By the end of the story, readers will understand that real magic has happened, the kind of transformation that trust, kindness and friendship can and does effect every day. Within the book’s short extent, Bourne creates living, breathing characters and a story that will connect directly with readers. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+
This seminal exploration of mental health begins with an explosion. Olive is on the edge, unable to cope with the volume of noise and people in the world: “I hate humans. I hate that they’re everywhere. But the human I hate most is me”. After a disturbing episode during her dad’s birthday celebrations, she agrees to attend Camp Reset, “the country’s first residential camp for brain wellness”, where young clients are given therapy and encouraged to identify their core beliefs in a plush country setting. Olive knows what her core belief is - “I’m a bad person” - and so a key to her healing will be to switch that into “I am a good person who tries my best.” While struggling with this, and inspired by the “suicide algorithm” the Camp Reset doctors have devised, Olive is struck by her own idea for a cure. She’s a compelling, creative fireball of a character and, though her condition is complex and her journey often dark, she’s also frequently entertaining. After enlisting the help of introverted maths-lover Lewis, it’s not long before Olive’s idea evolves into a wildly big-scale project. Unflinchingly honest and empathetic, this intense novel demonstrates the primary importance of kindness and compassion, that it’s never a persons fault that they’re unwell, and just how essential self-care is. Ladies and Gents, I give you one of the year’s most important YA novels - an engaging and thought-provoking book with tremendous value. Holly Bourne has done it again.
Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | October 2017 Book of the Month A feast of feel-good funniness and feminism that cleverly contrasts the impossible magic of movie romance with the heady complexities of real-life love. Talented actress Audrey (named after Hepburn) has just started working in an indie cinema where she begrudgingly serves gourmet hotdogs to the well-heeled inhabitants of Bridgely-upon-Thames alongside zombie-movie-maker and “player” Harry. When set a Critical Research project by her media studies teacher, Audrey decides to write about “why love is never like the movies”, and boy does she know about the devastating disappointments of real-life love, what with her mum seeking solace in alcohol as a result of her dad starting a new family with someone else, and her own experience with an ex who dumped her a week after she lost her virginity to him. No wonder, then, that Audrey’s left wondering what the point of love is, and the project excerpts that appear as chapter intros wittily expound her views. But this hard-held conviction is put to the test when Audrey agrees to play a “feminist freedom fighter zombie bride” in Harry’s new movie, and finds that she might just be falling for him. Tackling complex issues around relationships, sex, alcoholism and movie cliché madness with a nimble lightness of touch, this is contemporary YA at it’s finest: hilarious, heartfelt, and wholly recommended. ~ Joanne Owen
In a nutshell: auld lang syne with the Spinster Club The end of What’s A Girl Gotta Do saw the three members of the Spinster Club heading off their different ways, now in this special short novel, Holly Bourne reunites them in the pressure cooker of a New Year’s Eve party: how have they coped? We discover that Lottie is planning to move to America, that Amber isn’t enjoying uni life as much as she’s been making out, and that Evie is struggling to support her boyfriend with his anxiety disorder. After an awkward start, they finally have one of those conversations that characterise their friendship, helping each other realise what is best for them, and giving themselves the confidence to go after it. Bourne understands her readership perfectly and writes for them with huge insight and affection, and this is a typically authentic, funny, and inspiring read. Readers will also enjoy Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven. ~ Andrea Reece
August 2016 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Feminism | Friendship | Fighting back |Inspirational and insanely funny, this third and final book in the Normal trilogy is a motivating must-read manifesto for young women, not to mention a powerful wake-up call for detractors of feminism. When two men subject Lottie to threatening sexual harassment, she feels embarrassed, afraid and, most of all, outrage at the male entitlement that led them to believe “my body was theirs to comment on”. With the backing of her college FemSoc and Spinster Club friends, she decides to (literally) call-out every single instance of sexism for an entire month by honking on a clown’s horn, and so the Vagilante Project is born. To help the Project gain ground, and to document her experiences, Lottie reluctantly recruits aspiring filmmaker Will. While he might be a “cocky jerk”, Will’s talent (and hipster good looks) can’t be denied and the campaign soon attracts major media attention. But the Project’s stresses take their toll on both her mental health and grades as her Cambridge University entrance interview looms. If that wasn’t enough, national coverage of the Vagilante Project brings out the trolls, and Lottie has to dig deep to stay sane and keep all her goals in her grasp. For me, one of this novel’s highpoints is its incisive exploration of cognitive dissonance. For example, Lottie knows the social norm of having hair-free legs is a patriarchal imposition, but it takes great guts to ditch the razor and go au naturel. That such issues are handled with both insight and humour makes this novel all the more authentic, and Lottie’s story is full of madly funny moments, such as when she mimics a man-spreader on the tube, or when she staggers from Will “like some pissed-up feminist gingerbread man” because she doesn’t need a male companion to walk her home. Packed with wit, warmth, honesty and passion, this novel will surely forge a path of empowerment for legions of young women (we could do with a real-life Lottie realising her ambition to become Prime Minister), while eliciting more than a few belly laughs along the way. ~ Joanne Owen
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | February 2016 Book of the Month Holly Bourne’s new novel demonstrates that with the right female friends, and a decent supply of cheesy snacks, a girl can get through anything. Amber is in America spending summer with the mum she hasn’t seen in two years. Outwardly Amber seems confident, brash even, but underneath she is full of insecurities, like most teens, and still deeply hurt by her mother’s decision to leave her. A romance with gorgeous Kyle – also not what he seems – helps her see herself and the world differently but her real support comes from best friends Evie and Lottie via their cheery, empowering Skype chats. Well-written and thoughtful, this has a thoroughly authentic twenty-first century teen voice and lightens serious issues with humour. ~ Andrea Reece Readers will also enjoy Bourne’s Am I Normal Yet? in which Evie takes the central role, and Ann Brashares The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.
August 2015 Book of the Month Evie is starting sixth form college and like any normal young person wants to fit in and make friends, and she’d like a boyfriend too. It’s challenging for Evie though because she’s also coping with anxiety disorder, something she’s determined to keep secret from even her closest new friends, Amber and Lottie. Teenage girls, as anyone who lives with or indeed is one will know, are some of the funniest and brightest people around and this is a wonderfully vivid story of female friendship in all its glory. The descriptions of Evie’s condition leave the reader in no doubt as to the depth of her suffering, but this is a positive, often very funny, and life-affirming read. ~ Andrea Reece
November 2014 Book of the Month Bree hides away behind her blog that few people read. So, if she writes about things people do want to read will it change her life to one of excitement and popularity? That's when she comes up with the Manifesto on How to Be Interesting. It works but at what cost and will it end up being the biggest mistake of her life. Very much in tune with her audience this second novel from Holly has characters readers will relate to and remember long after reading the last page. Check out the reviews from teenagers below of Holly's debut novel Soulmates. _________________________ A small number of readers were lucky enough to be invited to review Soulmates, Holly Bourne's debut novel. Read their reviews below. Amy Knight - 'Seventeen year-old Poppy doesn't believe in love until she meets Noah. Sparks fly as soon as they set eyes on each other and they both have to watch their feelings spin out of control.' Click here to read the full review. Sarah Murray - 'I could not but this book down it was amazing! Everything you think about love and soulmates gets completely re-written. It is one of my favourite books this year it is a must read!' Click here to read the full review. Molly Hudson - 'If you love a good romance book, but are into science-fiction too, this is perfect as it has a bit of each thrown in...we definitely need a sequel please Holly!! Definitely 5 stars!' Click here to read the full review. Ayesha Afghan - 'Soulmates is probably one of the sweetest yet saddest romances ever...Holly Bourne did a really good job on writing this novel and I am looking forward to reading more of her novels in future.' Click here to read the full review. Delilah Acworth - 'It was amazing, especially for a teenage girl like myself, because I could truly connect with the young characters. A stunning read, I highly recommend.' Click here to read the full review. Jhaneel Green - 'This book is Amazing! 5*s! It’s a breathtaking adventure that brings you both joy and sadness.' Click here to read the full review. Joe Wilkes - 'Soulmates follows panic-attack-stricken Lizzie...Unfortunate circumstances lead to her meeting the love of her life, and all sorts of things go wrong from there.' Click here to read the full review.
September 2013 Debut of the Month Introducing Poppy, 17-year-old cynic, and Noah, heart-throb guitarist: residents of mediocre Middletown, sometime students and…soulmates. After a chance meeting at a local band night, Poppy and Noah find themselves swept up in a whirlwind romance unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. But with a secret international agency preparing to separate them, a trail of destruction rumbling in their wake, (and a looming psychology coursework deadline), they are left with an impossible choice between the end of the world, or a life without love… A home-grown young author with a fearless freshness, poised to take the YA market by storm. Perfect for fans of Louise Rennison, Sophie McKenzie and Cassandra Clare. In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Soulmates a small number of readers were lucky enough to be invited to review this title. Here's a taster....'It was amazing, especially for a teenage girl like myself, because I could truly connect with the young characters. A stunning read, I highly recommend..' Scroll down to read more reviews...