Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: 25th May 2017
Source: Received copy from publisher
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Here's what Lauren knows: she's not like other girls. She also knows it's problematic to say that - what's wrong with girls? She's even fancied some in the past. But if you were stuck in St Agnes's, her posh all-girls school, you'd feel like that too. Here everyone's expected to be Perfect Young Ladies, it's even a song in the painfully awful musical they're putting on this year. And obviously said musical is directed by Lauren's arch nemesis.
Under it all though, Lauren's heart is bruised. Her boyfriend thinks she's crazy and her best friend's going through something Lauren can't understand... so when Lauren realises she's facing every teenage girl's worst nightmare, she has nowhere to turn. Maybe she should just give in to everything. Be like other girls. That's all so much easier ... right?
Huge thank you to Hot Key Books for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for a full and honest review. Claire Hennessy is quickly becoming one of my auto-buy, all time favourite authors and I was so extremely excited to read this novel as soon as I got my hands on it. I decided to not read too much of the blurb and avoided all early reviews of the novel so I could go into it completely fresh and just let the novel surprise me. It was a brilliant idea.
This novel is utter brilliance. Like Other Girls deals with so many important and current issues that not only affect those worldwide but also focusing on national Irish issues. The novel touches on hard issues in a realistic and raw way. Claire does not try to sugar coat any aspect of the novel, which I think is how it should be as readers can both learn and begin to understand the issues more clearly.
Like Other Girls shows an Irish secondary school in such a realistic way that I almost felt it was about my old secondary school! The constant being told what to do, how to behave and act is a constant theme through the novel as Lauren struggles with the idea of expectations but this theme is especially highlighted through her time at school. There were so many parts that seemed achingly familiar to me, having to ask to use the toilet, answering a question and being informed that your opinion was an invalid one and the boring school mass assembly's. The school depicted in the novel is not a fun time for Lauren and I feel many readers, especially those that attended an Irish catholic all girls secondary school, will completely relate to.
The novel also touches on LGBTQ issues slightly. Lauren is bisexual and is part of a "Q Club" which is a youth club for LGBTQ teenagers to meet up, hang out, have discussions and make friends. Although the club is at times not very fun for Lauren, I thought it sounded like an incredibly good idea for LGBTQ teenagers and I very much hope that such clubs exist in the real world!
A prevalent topic / theme of the novel is expectation and the concept of normality. Lauren feels the weight of so many people's expectations of her- how she should act, behave, think and basically live. Her school puts a lot of expectations on her but she also feels the weight of others expectations of her from her peers, family, friends, media etc,. This is a theme I think many can relate to as we all feel expectations from others everyday. Lauren also feels like she is too different and abnormal from other teenagers her age and often wonders if she would be happier or have an easier life if she was like everyone else- if she was "normal". This allows the reader to think about the concept of normality and how being different can make you stand out from the crowd in both good and bad ways. Lauren also expresses a fear of men, especially groups of them at night and I think this is something most girls- both teenage and adult can relate to. I had never read a novel where it described that feeling of dread when you see a group of men when you are alone before. It is a horrid feeling and I felt myself relating to Lauren so much in that situation. The novel highlights the importance of being different.
The biggest topic the novel deals with is relationships. We see lots of different kinds of relationships in the novel- Lauren's semi-cold family relationship at home, her broken friendship with her ex-best friend and her relationship with her boyfriend. All the relationships are so very well written and Claire has captured the feelings of each one so well that at times you feel as if you yourself are going through it too.
The novel also shows a realistic portrayal of teenage relationships and sex. The main aspect of the novel is around abortion and the problems around seeking an abortion in Ireland. This novel provides such a real, raw and heart wrenching insight into what happens if you fall pregnant in Ireland and do not wish to carry to full term. The novel explores Lauren's thoughts in such detail as she searches through internet posts and forums and falls deeper and deeper into her emotional turmoil over her situation. The novel also does not shy away from the emotional and raw thoughts Lauren faces as she makes her decision and also as she travels. Lauren is not a perfect character, she is selfish at times and very flawed- but this is what makes her voice real and honest. Although she is a fictional character, her voice is an echo of many girls and women who face this problem in Ireland today. Her fears and journey over the course of the novel bring the reader on a journey too.
The novel covers a host of issues such as sex, relationships, gender, abortion and modern Ireland. Claire Hennessy has created one of the best novels I have ever read on these issues in an Irish context that I hope teenagers and adults read and become educated on these issues. An incredibly emotional novel that will take you on a journey of tears, laughter and strength.This novel is one of the most important and realistic novels about the trials faced by Irish women in Ireland today and should be praised. Another brilliant offering from Claire Hennessy- one of the best Irish YA authors out today.
See my previous reviews of other novels by Claire Hennessy here;
[ Nothing Tastes As Good ] [ Good Girls Don't ]