THE PLOT: The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne is about a teenage girl who is recovering from a break up. Amelie has just moved from Sheffield to Surrey because her father has been made redundant. An aspiring singer, she enrolls at a performing arts college, where everyone admires her talent. In particular, there’s one boy who won’t stop praising her. Reese is determined to date Amelie. He showers her with compliments, plans elaborate dates and makes her feel so special. But, when the relationship goes downhill, Amelie is distraught and visits all of the places he’s made her cry to understand what went wrong.
RATING: Three and a half stars. This is an important book to teach teenagers about the signs of an abusive relationship. Slow to start, by the midpoint the novel becomes very entertaining because the plot is tightly woven between two timelines. However, I felt it lacked Bourne’s signature style. Although there are some great comic one-liners, the overall tone of the book is very sad and there’s a lot of flashback, which makes the story seem less immediate. Despite the entertaining plot, I felt like I was reading this behind a pane of glass – I was removed from it instead of living it with the characters.
GOOD BITS: At first, I wasn’t sure about the structure. There’s a dual narrative. The “present-day Amelie” trying to deal with the aftermath of the breakup and visit all of the places she’s cried, and the “past Amelie” who meets Reese and falls in love. Initially the present-day timeline is a bit “woe is me” and “signals of doom”, but I liked how this develops when Amelie visits a counsellor and begins to properly process her relationship with Reese.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: Something about this book feels rushed. On a practical note, I’m pretty sure I noticed at least two typing errors, which weren’t picked up by copy editors. On an artistic note, the sentences are a bit simple and repetitive. Usually, I’d see this as realistic storytelling from the voice of a teenage protagonist, but it’s a bit clunky in places. It feels like it was written to a quick deadline and could’ve done with another edit. Also, on a personal note, I simply didn’t connect with the main character.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to those looking for novels about dysfunctional or abusive relationships for a teenage audience. For example, it’d be good for secondary school libraries, a teen book group or for discussion in a PSHE class, as it contains important themes that are well-handled. However, I wouldn’t recommend this as your first Holly Bourne book if you’re just reading for pleasure. In my opinion, the Spinster Club series is better.