20th November 2022

Review: Pretending by Holly Bourne

Holly Bourne’s new adult fiction novel Pretending was a five-star feminist read for one of our English literature students
Review: Pretending by Holly Bourne
Photo: Imogen Migos @ The Mancunion

Trigger warning: Discusses sexual assault 

As a teenager in secondary school, I loved Holly Bourne’s young adult fiction books such as Are we all just lemmings and snowflakes? so I was very excited when I heard of her new adult book Pretending, despite not really knowing what to expect from it.

I adored this book! I devoured it! It was everything I had been looking for and more to get me out of a reading slump. It left me thinking about it for days and telling all my friends to read it. It was my five-star read for the summer. If you’re not quite convinced that it’s for you yet, then let me explain.

Pretending focuses on April – a pretty and normal woman who can never make it past date five. After heartbreak upon heartbreak and trauma from a previous relationship, April wishes she could be more like Gretel: men’s ideal girl. So that’s exactly what happens. Overnight she turns herself into the perfect woman and that makes dating much more fun. She’s finally the one in control. But how long can she keep it that way? How long can she keep on pretending?

“Maybe you are pretending to be a woman everyone else is pretending to be too?”

I found Bourne’s writing both poignant and witty which made it easy to read but didn’t detract from the important subject matter. The protagonist herself is formidable and I thought she was a really interesting character to share her point of view from. Even though the plot may sound shallow like the classic protagonist makeover to get the guy, Pretending was anything but.

The book felt empowering and introduced a necessary, well-written discourse on sexual assault today. I rarely cry when reading but it was hard not to with this novel. A must-read as we approach Reclaim the Night in Manchester.

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