My rating: 5 of 5 stars
How Hard Can Love Be? is the second book in the Normal trilogy/ Spinster Club Series) by Holly Bourne.
HHCLB follows the story of Amber, a 17-year-old sixth-form student who heads off to California for a summer working at a summer camp for children. There is a twist however – the camp is run by her recovering alcoholic mother and stepfather, who abandoned her with her father and stepfamily, and who she hasn’t seen for two years. As Amber faces the prospect that she may never truly get along with her mother, she also starts to fall for your typical all-American Prom King god-in-boy-form, Kyle – despite her head telling her not to.
HHCLB is quite different in theme to Am I Normal Yet? (review here), the first book in the series. AINY followed Evie, Amber’s best friend, and her battle with OCD and anxiety. I really enjoyed the family setup here – parents are often weirdly absent in YA, and here their explanation for being absent is dealt with in a way that has obviously impacted on the character and her behaviour. Her mother and stepfather are well rounded and important parts of the story, a feature which rarely appears in YA (when your parents are often a huge part of your life!).
Many of the supporting characters are fleshed out with back stories and interesting traits, and the characters and the situations they get into feel realistic and logical. Not everything in YA romance has to be sparkles and rainbows, and Amber has to face some tough decisions and situations herself, but they never feel unrealistic.
It should be noted that this book has content that is ‘not suitable for younger readers’ – there’s at least discussion of drinking and sex, which is unusual and refreshing in young adult literature. Many characters in YA don’t even think about drinking or having sex, at least until the last book of the series (quite the polar opposite of real life!).
I love the format of the series – I’ve read way way too many YA books which were obviously written as a standalone and then unnaturally forced into a series. Here, each book could be read as a standalone, but they fit together beautifully – there’s no need to read the first book (although you definitely should, because it’s great!) to understand what’s going on. Holly traverses the line between standalone and series here so well – three books that are (almost certainly) wonderful that can be read alone or as a set.
As with AINY, there are ‘Situations Destined to Fail’ pages at the beginning with each chapter, which are a fun break and eases the read. Bourne’s writing is wonderful, and even though the book is nearly 500 pages long, I read this in a few days.
I love love love love love this series, and if there’s one YA novel you have to read this February, it should be How Hard Can Love Be? I can’t wait for the third book to come out.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Comment below or tweet me at @AnnaliseBooks 🙂