How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne (proof) - All Amber wants is a little bit of love. Her mum has never been the caring type, even before she moved to California, got remarried and had a personality transplant. But Amber's hoping that spending the summer with her can change all that.
And then there's prom king Kyle, the guy all the girls want. Can he really be interested in anti-cheerleader Amber? Even with best friends Evie and Lottie's advice, there's no escaping the fact: love is hard. From Goodreads.
Having loved Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne, I was so excited to read the sequel, How Hard Can Love Be? which follows another member of the Spinster Club, Amber. Although I loved this book, it wasn't quite on par with Am I Normal Yet?
Amber hasn't seen her mum in two years. Not since she went to America to with Kevin, her once counsellor for her alcoholism, then her boyfriend. So Amber is super excited to be spending this summer with her mum, looking forward to spending time with her now she's well - even though she ran off to America and got married without inviting her, and hasn't really taken any interest in her since. Things will be different now. She's better, and will surely have missed Amber as much as she has missed her. Except... her mum isn't the person she remembers. She's now a vegetarian, spends a lot of time volunteering or looking adoringly at Kevin - and has hardly any time for Amber. She and Kevin now run a summer camp for 11-year-olds, and the only reason Kevin accepted her coming to visit is if she works at the camp too - all day, almost every day. While working, she makes a number of friends with some of the other camp counsellors; Russ, Whinnie, and Kyle. Especially Kyle, who is so good looking and tanned, and the all-American dream boy. Amber soon finds herself crushing on him quite hard, but she knows Kyle would never see her that same way... would he? As the summer goes on, Amber struggles with trying to forge a new relationship with her mum, who continuously avoids all Amber's questions around her leaving, and her growing feelings for Kyle, who is always so, so nice. What she really needs are her two best friends, Evie and Lottie, but Skype catch ups and Spinster Club meetings are few and far between.
I loved how like it's predecessor, How Hard Can Love Be? tackled a serious subject along feminism. This time, it was alcoholism and coping with an absent parent. I really, really felt for Amber when she would have flashbacks to times when her mum was too drunk to get out of bed to take her to school, or would suggest super crazy and fun things to do while drunk, that would only get them in trouble with her dad. There were arguments, and there was a lot of neglect. That's a lot to deal with when you're young. But then, once she's better, her mum runs off to America with her new boyfriend, leaving Amber behind. Amber struggles so much with how her mum has treated her in the past, and is struggling now when they're finally together after two years, and she barely seems interested. I really didn't like the way her mum treated her. She was so selfish! Amber did have penchant for being kind of immature, and you could say she mostly thought about the situation from her perspective alone without trying to see it from her mum's point of view, but even so, I was completely on Amber's side. She's holding on to so much hurt and so many questions, and her mum seems to be this totally different person who doesn't care, and it just builds and builds. This conflict is resolved by the end of the book, and for this particular story, for these particular characters it works and makes sense, and I can understanding, but that doesn't make it ok. I would not have been as ok with things as Amber with how this was resolved. I just wouldn't. And I guess I'm a little disappointed in Amber. Not in the story, but in Amber and how she chooses to deal with things.
I found I related to Amber quite a lot. I am also ginger with pale skin (though not particularly tall) and also a huge Harry Potter fan. I wouldn't say I was as obsessed with Harry Potter as Amber is, but I, like her, feel Harry Potter is sacred. I did have a long-ish rant here about my problems with how Harry Potter is treated by certain characters in this book, but I guess it's not really important, and I completely agree with Amber anyway, so you can just read the book and see for yourself.
I related so strongly with how Amber felt about how she looks; she doesn't believe she's very pretty, and that's not just down to her being quite tall, but also because of her colouring, and there are a lot of people, especially young people, who just don't think ginger people are attractive. So I could completely understand where she was coming from when she couldn't believe Kyle was interested in her. It might not sound like anything new, but Bourne writes with such stark honesty, and all of Amber's negatives thoughts are laid bare. I think most girls, ginger or not, could probably really identify with Amber in this point, because she speaks to all the insecurities we have when we're young, and how we compare ourselves to others and find ourselves wanting. I completely got where she was coming from, but also felt unbelievably sad for her, for my teenage self, for all teens who feel this way. It's just so awful, and I just wanted to give her a huge hug.
I loved how things went with Kyle, though I didn't particularly warm to him. He's not a bad guy by any stretch of the imagination, he just seemed a little 2D to me. Flat, not really real. I guess part of that could be down to use not really getting to know him, because he doesn't really know himself. But he just seemed a little too perfect and not very realistic to me. However, I loved his interest in Amber's feminist views, and how he not only got it, but could add his own opinions, too, especially about how sexism had a negative affect on guys, too. I loved those conversations! Because yesss! And I was doing a little dance in my head at the thought of the teens who were reading this book and having their eyes opened as to how sexism affects everyone, and how feminism is good for all.
Speaking of which, there were the Spinster Club Skype meetings, and they were SO awesome! There were fewer that there were in Am I Normal Yet?, but that's understandable because of Amber being so busy and the time difference, but Lottie had so much to say, especially about female chauvinist pigs and raunch culture - how women are now very sexual because we feel we need to be to get approval (but it's really so much more than that. Read the book, then read the book I believe Lottie is referring to!), and I was nodding along to it all! And it was so clever how Bourne got this piece of feminist chat into the story through what Amber was experiencing at camp. Oh my god, I just loved all of it. And I am so, so hoping we get even more in Lottie's book, as she tends to be the one doing the most educating.
But now on to what kind of disappointed me. Amber can be pretty immature to the point of being irritating. At first, it was amusing when Amber referred to Kevin as "Bumchin Kevin", but I lost count of the amount of times she did, and it just got so annoying. "Bumchin Keving and his bumchininess." Amber, I know you don't like him, but please do us all a favour and act your age. You're 17, not 12. She also had some quite spiteful thoughts about Melody, one of the camp counsellors who was beautiful and sexual and not the brightest, and I get that she was kind of jealous, but her thoughts were so mean! And I know that can be realistic, but it didn't seem realistic to the character of Amber. She would even talk about how she would have unfeminist thoughts about her. You can be jealous, but there's no need to be vile. So there were quite a few times in the book when she really wound me up, and I just wanted to tell her to grow up. I know she was having a tough time, but it just really grated on my nerves.
But overall, I loved this book, and I am so incredibly excited for Lottie's book later in the year (I believe?)! I love what this trilogy is doing to nurture feminism in teens, and I love Bourne for being awesome enough to do this! I'm pretty much just a huge fan of hers. If you loved Am I Normal Yet? you're going to love How Hard Can Love Be? too!
Thank you to Usborne for the proof.
Published: 1st February 2016
Holly Bourne's Website
My other reviews from the series:
Am I Normal Yet? (The Normal Trilogy Book 1)