Solitaire by Alice Oseman

A review of the Young Adult literary novel Solitaire by Alice Oseman.

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I heard this book described as “the modern day Catcher in the Rye” and I guess that makes sense because I bloody hate Catcher in the Rye.

Solitaire is about Tori Spring, a depressed and lonely teenager ploughing her way through school and trying her best not to get involved with or care about anyone or anything. But when she meets a strange boy called Michael Holden who seems determined to be her friend, and a group called Solitaire starts playing dangerous pranks at her school, Tori’s life of studied ennui is forced to change.

I love Radio Silence, Alice Oseman’s second book, and I guess even more so now because it’s clear how much she’s grown as an author between this book and that one. Radio Silence has similar themes to Solitaire, but they’re all done so much better—it’s clearer, for one thing, and the characters are stronger, and it just makes so much more sense.

It’s difficult when you write a story with a character who hates everything and everyone, and freely—proudly—admits that they hate everything and everyone, because how do you run with that? I admit it, bits of Tori reminded me of my teenage self, but that’s the thing—I know I was a very sad teenager who spent too much time in my own head, and I know that the stories I wrote then weren’t ready because I wasn’t ready; I was sad and scared and immature, and the thoughts I had weren’t super revelatory or interesting.

Another thing is the pace and the plot, and again I’m coming back to Radio Silence, because Radio Silence had a clear timeline and a deadline—final exams, UCAS, Sixth Form—which gave it a solid structure, but Solitaire just sort of meandered about and only occasionally gave some direction about where it was going via the Solitaire blog. Another point—I’m puzzled about the logistics of Solitaire’s creation because it seems like too much work and technical knowledge required for it to be plausible.

Overall I’m glad I read Radio Silence first.

Alice Olivia Scarlett is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Thanet with the seagulls and parakeets.

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