Trigger warnings can be found at the end of the review!
”And who are you, Victoria Spring?”
I can’t think of anything to say because that is what my answer would be really. Nothing. I am a vacuum. I am a void. I am nothing.
To write a review about “Solitaire” turns out to be more difficult than I thought it would be. Mostly because I still don’t know where I stand with the book or rather on which side I came out of? About half of the people who read it loved it and the other half seems to dislike it pretty strongly. There rarely seems to be anything in between and I totally get why the opinions about this book are so varied. It’s not an easy book to like, because Tori Spring is not your typical MC. And I don’t even mean that she’s an anti-hero, she’s just not someone you’d like to be friends with and her life and the people she surrounds herself with are all pretty bland and uncongenial.
”There’s a time and a place for being normal. For most people, normal is their default setting. But for some, like you and me, normal is something we have to bring out, like putting on a suit for a posh dinner.”
But well, I guess that’s exactly the point of the book. You’re not supposed to like Tori, you’re expected to question her life, you’re meant to challenge her decisions and you’re expected to scrutinize the way she interacts with her environment. Alice herself wrote that Tori is battling undiagnosed depression and you can feel it on every single page. The people she surrounds herself with don’t get it and Tori herself doesn’t expect anything from life which only makes everything even worse. You can see the spiral she’s in but she’s unable to get out of it herself and so she falls deeper and deeper into it. The people around her notice that she’s unhappy, but they don’t see to which extent. And they decide to ignore her moods instead of confronting her about them because whenever they do she shuts herself off and withdraws.
”I’m not in a biscuit mood today.”
“Well, I’m still coming over, Tori.”
“You don’t have to come over. I’m completely fine.”
The only person that calls her out on her bullshit and challenges her is Michael Holden, because Michael Holden knows how she feels. He gets her in a way no one else does because he’s angry about a lot of things and he doesn’t know how to get rid of that anger. He learned to cope with it and to live with it, but it’s never truly gone.
Just like a depression, of course you can have good phases in which you’re not depressive and feel positive and good about the world, but there’s always the risk of falling back into a depression. It starts slowly and then more and more things happen and in the end you spiral so hard you can’t get out of it anymore. At least not without any help. And just in case you wondered, yes I’ve a background in psychology, which is probably the reason why I got what Alice Oseman was trying to do with this book. I’m pretty certain the 50% that came out loving “Solitaire” either have a background like that too or they themselves went through it as well. We can relate to Tori, we can understand why she is the way she is and therefore see the book for what it is and what it’s trying to tell us. I’m not saying that the other 50% that disliked the book were wrong, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to things like that, I’m just trying to explain that they probably never had to fight depression and don’t know the signs. If you’ve never dealt with depression and read this book you’ll most definitely think that it’s a super dark one, that everything in Tori’s life is shitty and mediocre and that the book has absolutely no storyline or central theme. Well, for me it does because it shows how Tori lives with her depression and tries to fight it with self-irony, dark humour and by holding onto the good moments in life.
“I don’t want people to try and understand why I’m the way I am, because I should be the first person to understand that. And I don’t understand yet. I don’t want people to interfere. I don’t want people in my head, picking out this and that, permanently picking up the broken pieces of me.“
All the things that happen in the book are what lead to the ending. No matter if it’s the sudden appearance of Michael Holden and Lucas Ryan or the mystery about Solitaire that runs through the entire book like a golden thread. No matter if it’s Tori’s complicated relationship with her mother and friends or her closeness to Charlie and the things she had to witness. They all come together in the end and they collide. I guess you could say all those things and especially Michael Holden and Solitaire work as some sort of catalyst that inevitably leads us to the ending of the story. Just like a musical crescendo. It builds and builds until it finally explodes.
He chuckles again and rubs his eyes. “You do know me.” And he’s right. I do know him. Just because someone smiles doesn’t mean that they’re happy.
As for the way Tori sees her world, I was surprised that despite everything she witnessed with Charlie she still thought that he had a great life and that he’s popular. Sometimes reading her POV felt like I missed a memo, because Charlie certainly wouldn’t have been driven to do the things he did if his life would have been as perfect as Tori thought it was. Then again that discrepancy and stark contrast of what Tori saw and what was the actual truth only emphasized the inconsistency of her perception of the world. (Uff, I never meant that review to turn out so factual and technical. Sorry! XD)
”And you would think that it would be someone like Nick who was at the top of Truham – loud, attractive, house captain, rugby player. But no. It’s Charlie.
What I’m trying to say is that Charlie is a nice person and, despite everything I’ve just explained, everybody seems to love him. And I think that is a modern miracle.”
On a different note: It’s good to know Ben Hope is still a hopeless case (pun totally intended) and as horrible as ever. The things he said to Charlie. Wow. Internalized homophobia that turns against yourself is really bad and if that boy doesn’t come to terms with his sexuality soon he’s going to be in a really bad place. I don’t know if Alice Oseman will ever address his character development but for Ben Hope’s sake I genuinely hope that he’ll have an epiphany one day. This said the last thing I need to address and want to talk about is that it says: “This is not a love story.” on the blurb and I think that this is something that’s up for debate. I personally think that it might not look like one, but that it actually IS one. Or in different words: It isn’t until it is?! *lol* Do with that statement what you want. ;-P
Honestly if you read this entire review and followed my reasoning you deserve a medal. I never intended this to be such a serious review but I guess “Solitaire” tackled a couple of serious topics and after reading some of the other reviews I wanted to give my two cents as someone who has a little background knowledge in psychology. So the burning question is: Was “Solitaire” as good as all of Alice Oseman’s other books?
And my candid answer is: Yes and no. I think you just can’t compare it to any of her other works because for one thing it’s her debut novel and for another it’s an entirely different writing style. At least for me it is, because it’s extremely immersive and you see the world through Tori’s perspective and POV. Of course you could argue that you do that with every book and MC you read about but I think this time it was different. You saw the darkness with Tori’s eyes and yes, this is unpleasant, it doesn’t make you happy, it drags you down; it makes it a chore to get through the book and it’s exactly the reason why I think “Solitaire” is brilliant in its own way. I’m a sanguine person, but I appreciated to get a different glimpse at the world and it’s always good to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. A little bit of sensitivity never hurt anyone. With this in mind: Four paws. No more and no less.
spoilerdepression, self-harm, eating disorder, arson, bullying (on page), suicide attempt (implied) and thoughts of suicide (mentioned on page), homophobia (also internalized), obsessive-compulsive behaviours (on page), assault (on page)