Sunday, 31 January 2016

How Hard Can Love Be? By Holly Bourne is the perfect read for this Valentine's Day!

How Hard Can Love Be? (Normal, #2)Title: How Hard Can Love Be?
Series: Normal #2
Author: Holly Bourne
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 480 Pages, Paperback
Publication: February 1st 2016, Usborne Publishing
Source: Thank you to Usborne for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review! 
Rating: 4/5 Cupcakes!
All Amber wants is a little bit of love. Her mum has never been the caring type, even before she moved to Califorenia, 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. 

I read Holly Bourne's first book in this spectacular trilogy of friendship, feminism and the roller-coaster called life and I absolutely fell in love with it. So I immediately began my arc of How Hard Can Love Be?, the sequel that follows the life of one of Evie's best friends, Amber, that we were introduced to in the first book, as we watch her make her way to the States help her mom and step-dad's summer camp in hope that she will be able to reconnect with the mother she hasn't seen in two years. I really enjoyed this novel, but perhaps my expectations were too high as I didn't fall as in love with this as I did with Am I Normal Yet?.

How Hard Can Love Be? focuses on seventeen year old Amber who is climbing on a plane to jet over to America to spend the summer with her recovering alcoholic mother and her new stepfather who she has quite a disliking for. Amber is picturing a summer filled with reconciliation, reminiscing and, in her wildest dreams, her mom's return home. However, Amber isn't prepared for her mom's lack of presence and the gaping wound that she thought her mother would be able to fix, nor was she prepared for the friends she would make, the lessons she would learn and the boy she would fall in love with.

Can I just say, I loved the setting in this book. In fact, I feel like reading it all over again just so that I can visit the camp again. It was bonfires and kayaking and mountains and forests and I could just imagine myself right there and in a sense, I'm homesick for that place because it was just such - well, how I pictured it - a wonderful place to be and I really got swept up into the whole summer camp thing and I absolutely loved it! OOH, I also really, really want to go visit Yosemite National Park now!

I also really liked the fact that I got to learn more about Amber. I always thought she seemed like an interesting character and I love how we get to learn about each member of the Spinster Club with each novel. I really liked Amber, she was funny, snarky, intelligent and real. You could see how she would push people away because she was terrified of being hurt again, you could see how badly it made her ache to be rejected by her mother once again and my heart really felt for her. 

I LOVED the secondary characters in this novel! I absolutely adored the friendship Amber formed with Whinnie who was such a kind, empathetic character and I just loved her personality. I also really liked Kyle and Russ who were also incredibly kind and funny and I loved the group dynamics between the four. It was also interesting seeing the stark contrasts between the Americans and the British. In South Africa we are also more open about our feelings and I've noticed that a lot of people in England are more conservative about the sharing of their emotions so it was really interesting (and at times quite funny!) to see how Amber deals with this uncharted territory of expressing one's emotions verbally.

We also got to see snippets of Lottie and Evie which made my heart explode with joy. The conversations between the three girls never failed to make me laugh and I caught myself giggling out loud several times throughout! I also once again LOVED the feminist topics covered in the Spinster Club meetings and I learned so much about feminism, gender stereotypes and about how people sexualise women and how that's constantly pitting women against each other. These books really shed light on the inequality for both genders and they teach you so much about it as well. Every time I read one of Holly Bourne's books I'm desperate to run to my library and raid it of all books dealing with these certain topics.

The romance was also one of the prime features in this book and although I was completely sold on it at first, the more I read about it the more I found myself suppressing the urge to role my eyes. I really liked Kyle in the beginning. He's lovely and so gentlemanly however, towards the end section he started whining about how "unoriginal" and how "stereotyped" he is and at times his dialogue resembled the words that come out of a bored, grumbling ten year old and that made my love for him lessen slightly. He just seemed so obsessed with not being an American stereotypical golden boy that I just found it quite a silly thing for him to worry himself over. I did like Amber and Kyle together and I loved how their romance built up over time and wasn't insta-love. I loved how sweet Kyle was to Amber and that he would listen to her feminist rants, how he would respect her and appreciate her and that he actually cared about more than just the physical/sexual aspects of a relationship. I really hope things work out for them and that they can find a way to make it work long distance as I really think they're adorable together!

I also appreciated that this book dealt with difficult topics such as abandonment and addiction issues and showed the immense impact it can have on those close to the person battling with their demons. I thought Amber's relationship with her mother was written extremely well, from the hurt and the feeling of betrayal and the confusion to the love and the nostalgia of better times. I also liked how, despite this book dealing with a sensitive topic, the book never felt too dark and dismal. It had an upbeat tune echoing through the pages which diverted the dark cloud that could have potentially ended up hovering over the book. 

Overall, I really enjoyed How Hard Can Love Be?, it tackled realistic, heart-breaking issues in a sensitive manner. It was filled with hope, adventure and emphasized the importance of taking chances in order to grow, creating a life that you love and being true to yourself. With a fantastically fun setting in an American summer camp, new friends, new adventures and second chances mixed with dashes of romance and the opportunity to be enlightened on feminism and equality, How Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne is the perfect book to be swept away with this Valentine's day!

I give it: 4/5 cupcakes!
- Alcoholism

 
- Under age drinking
- Profanity used a few times



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