‘Turning thirty is like playing musical chairs. The music stops, and everyone just marries whoever they happen to be sitting on.’
Who the f*ck is Tori Bailey?
There’s no doubt that Tori is winning the game of life. A straight-talking, bestselling author, she’s inspired millions of women around the world with her self-help memoir. And she has the perfect relationship to boot.
But Tori Bailey has been living a lie.
Her long-term boyfriend won’t even talk about marriage, but everyone around her is getting engaged and having babies. And when her best friend Dee – her plus one, the only person who understands the madness – falls in love, suddenly Tori’s in terrifying danger of being left behind.
When the world tells you to be one thing and turning thirty brings with it a loud ticking clock, it takes courage to walk your own path.
It’s time for Tori to practice what she’s preached, but the question is: is she brave enough?
The debut adult novel by bestselling author Holly Bourne is a blisteringly funny, honest and moving exploration of love, friendship and navigating the emotional rollercoaster of your thirties.
What I Thought
HDYLMN was not a completely enjoyable read for me (it kept hitting a nerve) but it was a very important one. It has been proposed that often books might come along when we need them. This was Authentic, Raw and Validating. It’s also very contemporary and real. I have definitely had variations of the discussions in this book with friends and family.
Holly has an ability to tap into the collective consciousness of women and girls. During reading there were times that I felt she had climbed into my mind and splurged my thoughts and feelings on the page.
The main character Tori is flawed or as her own guru Taylor would say ‘She’s a difficult woman’. Except she’s not. She’s human. She has emotions and those emotions are valid and okay to display.
Because I was reading an eARC the formatting was not what the final version will look like however this is what I can gleam. The book is split into 9 chapters spanning 9 months (I only realised after I finished how clever this was!). My only issue with that is that each section was quite long and hope on printing there are some natural breaks (white space) included. I may be odd but I don’t like to leave a book mid chapter and I struggled to find clear break off points.
I loved the use of social media statuses in each section. The plot does explore issues around social media including ‘does seeing other people’s statuses make you depressed’ and ‘how important is it to get likes and validation’.
Tori’s relationship with her boyfriend Tom was so conflicted and Holly really explores the challenges of long term relationships. Personally there are a couple of things he does that I find unforgivable (there is definitely some gaslighting) but I can totally understand why Tori is in the situation she is.
I like this quote from Taylor which says ‘Anger is neither a positive or a negative emotion. It’s just a signal that a boundary of yours is being crossed.’
The challenge for women in particular to be seen as successful is to be doing the next thing. Whether that is marriage, babies, a promotion, a new book. The issue of children is hugely important here and it is personally the sections around this that had me in tears. Both of laughter and sadness. Whether you are a woman who has had, hasn’t had, wants or doesn’t want children there is something in this book you will empathise with. I would urge women to be cautious when talking with peers about children because we often don’t know what is going on behind the scenes with respect to that. Not only is it a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice to not want children there are also people that desperately do want them but for whatever reason can’t.
Feminism and female relationships, which are central in Holly’s YA books, are just as important to older women. The struggles of being a ‘good feminist’ is addressed along with a discussion about pubic hair that had me shaking my head in disbelief.
Tori’s friend Dee is awesome and there were some great scenes in the book that reminded me of nights with my mates. The evolution of female friendships especially when children come along is also examined. I love how the concept of jealously is understood and that is acknowledged that it’s okay to be jealous and happy for someone at the same time. My younger sister is getting married next year and just this weekend, before I finished the book, she asked me how I was feeling about it. She gets that it might be tricky for me and I love her for that. Luckily I am mega happy for her so any slight jealousy I have is only fleeting.
Tori goes to counselling in the book and oddly enough I have just started going too and I even spoke about this book in my last session?!? See – art imitates life people. That’s why it’s important.
Mental health issues such as eating issues and self harm are touched on but are not the main focus. There is a sense given that there is no quick fix but just an acceptance that problems exist.
This book may not speak to every reader in the way it spoke to 39 year old me but it’s almost turned into Tori’s second book ‘For women in their thirties’. Obviously it’s a story not a self help book but there are some good nuggets of advice amongst the humour and drama. Men who are with women in their thirties should totally read this too. It might help them understand some things.
I most often read fantasy as I like some escapism in my stories. This book is so evocative of real life that I did actually get a book hangover and it made me think about changes I want to make. Holly please keep sharing the truth with a capital T. Publishers keep sharing women’s fiction that isn’t just romance with a happy ending. Holly has taken the authenticity and relevance that I love about reading YA and put it info a book that I won’t be criticised for reading at my age!!! (Not that I give a f**k what people think about what I’m reading – now to work on giving less f**cks about other things too).