The Manifesto on How to be Interesting by Holly Bourne
Published by: Usborne Publishing
I own all of Holly Bourne’s book, but have yet to read any of them. I thought that The Manifesto on How To Be Interesting would be as good a place to start as any. The premise was interesting enough, I just wondered if the book would live up to its title. Fundamentally, I think Bourne’s confused the word interesting with popular. I was thrown for a loop with the content, and got a lot of things I wasn’t expecting…mostly a slight rewrite of Mean Girls.
P L O T
Social reject Bree decided that in order to improve her life, she needs to radically change her appearance, become one of the most popular girls in school and start a romantic relationship with her teacher. None of these things sounds like a good idea to me, but she goes about them anyway. Along with this, she starts a blog to chart her progress.
C H A R A C T E R S
I didn’t know how I felt about Bree from the very beginning. She’s got extremely rich parents so has quite a pampered home life but this doesn’t extend to her school life. She’s got one friend, who she completely takes for granted, and thinks that by becoming popular, she’ll be happy. Surely she knows this isn’t how things work?
If she tried this experiment in real life, it would crash and burn. In secondary school, you can’t just put on lipstick, wear short skirts, get your hair dyed and expect everything to change. People would probably make fun of anyone who tried to do that and they’d be laughed back to their old selves, even more unhappy than they were before.
Still, she somehow manages to become the most popular girl, for the sake of it.
The sarcastic tone of her blog tells you all you need to know. The posts that come at the end of some chapters are written with such self-importance, it’s obvious she doesn’t really want to do some of the catty things she’s expected to do. Being all gossip-y and bitchy about other girls for no reason? It’s cruel. If she was going to infiltrate the popular crowd, the least she could try and do was make them nicer, not turn into one.
As for some of the popular crowd, they’re cruel and mean and think they’re queens of the universe, but underneath it all, they’re people too, and that’s what Bree fails to realise. They’re just as insecure and worried about their social lives. They have other interests besides…lipstick. When Bree attempts to cheat on Jassmine’s boyfriend (evil jerk popular guy, sorry I can’t remember your name) she’s going to hurt Jassmine’s feelings. Her actions have repercussions!!
Urgh, I just found myself getting frustrated about so many parts of this book but, for some reason, couldn’t stop reading.
I S S U E S
Along with Bree’s attempt to be popular, she’s in love with her English teacher. This actually goes quite far, and their relationship becomes extremely romantic outside of the school setting. I’m not sure how comfortable with this as an issue. I’ve read a few things that are about student-teacher relationships and can’t help but think it’s only something that can happen without repercussions in fiction. Gingersnaps by Cathy Cassidy did a great job of showing what can happen when a teacher crosses the line. Pretty Little Liars tells you that anything is possible, as long as it’s a secret.
Then, Bree’s a self-harmer. This was extremely upsetting to read, because I think it’s the most tragic thing someone can do. Hurting yourself as the only way to feel emotion? It seriously makes me so sad that it’s something people do but I think it’s great to talk about in a book, because it’s so taboo. Teens need to be made aware of it as an issue and the kind of support they can receive. No one is ever in something alone. People will always care about you, no matter how bad you feel. This was one saving grace for Manifesto.
V E R D I C T
I didn’t really like this book. I think that’s evident. BUT, it was definitely something I wanted to read. However, I’m extremely tired of the popular girls always being portrayed as the evil girls. Popular and mean are NOT synonymous, so let’s stop perpetuating that it is. Overall, I’m giving The Manifesto on How To Be Interesting 2 stars. Now, let’s go see what else Holly Bourne has written!
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