I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Pretending by Holly Bourne
Published by MIRA on November 17, 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Dating & Sex, Sexual Abuse, Women's Fiction
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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?
Pretending deals with some very heavy subject matter: rape, low self-esteem, PTSD, and mental health. I haven’t read a book that tackles these issues so prominently in quite a while, and I enjoyed reading April’s journey of accepting the rape by her ex-boyfriend a few years prior to the beginning of the book to April ultimately getting the help and support she so desperately needed. While the blurb may seem light, the book tackles these subjects with a realism that makes you think.
Pretending follows April as she works for a charity that takes emails from the general public about their relationship and sexual problems. The ones that hit too close to home send April spiraling every time she’s on email response duty. While she tries to keep it together professionally, her personal life is in shambles. She doesn’t trust men at all, and once a potential suitor learns of her assault, they usually leave April to pick up the pieces. She’s fed up and thinks that the problem is with her, so she decides to create the persona of the perfect woman and puts herself right back out into the dating pool.
It just so happens that the first guy that finds her on the dating app could be the nicest, most understanding, genuine, and handsome IT professional she’s ever met. But “Gretel” as April calls herself, isn’t prepared to fall for what has to be an act from Joshua, so their dating starts out on a lie of April’s identity and continues until a very dramatic conclusion. Pretending is a book full of what it’s like to have been traumatized by sexual assault and the fallout for years afterward.
April is so obviously broken, traumatized, and crying out for help throughout this book. While she thinks that all she needs is to be the one in control for once–and being Gretel will give her that control–April finds that pretending to be someone she’s not is exhausting, trying, and just plain horrible when you grow to really like the person you’re deceiving. Is there any way that good things can come from this first and ultimate deception?
I give Pretending a four out of five. This book portrays what it’s like to live with such a serious traumatic event, and to eventually start to overcome it. I feel like April couldn’t get help until she was ready to accept the rape and reach out for aid. Her friends and coworkers couldn’t force April into therapy, even though she so desperately needed it. This was something that April needed to come into on her own terms. Joshua was the lone man that was good in this book. Every other male character, except for the homosexual coworker Matt, were portrayed as having nothing but bad qualities and faults. I really loved the kickboxing support group that April joined, and those survivors that make up the group made me smile with their unwavering support and understanding for April.
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About Holly Bourne
Holly Bourne is a bestselling UK-based YA and Adult Fiction author and is an Ambassador for Women’s Aid. In 2019, she was an Author of the Day at the London Book Fair, and was named by Elle Magazine’s weekly podcast as one of “Six Female Authors Changing the Conversation in 2019”. Pretending is her US debut.
Connect with Holly Bourne
Click here to read an Excerpt from Pretending.
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