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Book Review RANT: Solitaire by Alice Oseman

Hello Readers & Friends,

I read Solitaire by Alice Oseman yesterday and found it to be extremely problematic. I liked the writing style and easy-to-read dialogue, so I gave it 2 stars. (I only really give 1 stars to DNF.) But overall, for me, it was a train wreck.

The marketing tagline (and main reason I bought it) was, 'Catcher in the Rye for the Digital Age.'
It's always dangerous to compare your book to such an iconic title, and equally so, such a well-written character as Holden. Whilst Holden was complex, depressed, deep and dark, I found Solitaire's counterpart, Tori, to be judgemental, bitchy, cold and boring.
Whilst some parts of her depression were well communicated and represented accurately, I think that where she and Holden are worlds apart is that she was depressed and unlikable whereas Holden was depressed and likeable. Tori does not make for good representation of someone struggling with mental health.
I feel like her brother, Charlie, was only in the story to make her seem more likeable, and he caused many more problems than issues.
Let's talk about the problems, the unresolved issues in this book (lots of spoilers and rants):

1. The message I got was that if you're depressed and your friends stop talking to you because of your low mood it's your own fault and you just need to accept that you have no friends and stop trying.

2. Therapy, or any actual resolution for depression other than finding an equally depressed boyfriend, is at no point mentioned in this book. The ending gave the message, 'just find an angry boyfriend to love you despite your depression and everything will be okay', instead of 'work on yourself and when you are feeling better maybe then it's time to get a boyfriend.'

3. There was no support system in place (I'm talking adults, not immature kids who don't know wtf is happening) for Tori, Charlie or Michael, who were the most damaged characters. No adults helping them, no messaging that if you speak about your problems they will get better. We have a suicidal main character, a self-harming anorexic battling homophobia and an anger-management kid dealing with a lot of pressure and all three of them get no resolution or even direction for how to tackle their issues. Instead, their mental health struggles are used as plotlines and entertainment.

4. Let's go back to the most problematic plotline, Charlie, for two seconds. He gets beaten to a pulp, tells his dad he got hurt playing sport and this is never discussed again. Your gay, self-harming son comes home covered in bruises and you don't even try to find out what's really going on? Is this a joke? And how does the book resolve this issue? The bully got beaten up, too. So kids, next time someone punches you, tell all your friends to beat him up as revenge and that's how you solve the problem.

5. Another Charlie moment. When he self harms in the kitchen and instead of leaping into action the first thing Tori does is call Charlies boyfriend and blame him entirely.

The worst thing of all was that there was no character arc whatsoever. NONE of the characters, except maybe Boring Becky in the last 10 seconds of the book, showed any progress or development. They were all just as shitty and broken as they were at the start, probably due to the lack of any support mentioned above!
The only thing different was Bitter Tori got with Angry Michael!

ALSO, can someone explain to me why two guys fancy someone as bitter and rude as Tori?! As someone who has struggled with severe depression, I can honestly say I have never been as rude as to blatantly ignore someone who said hello to me just because I couldn't be arsed to speak to them. All Tori does is go about on her high-horse being rude AF to everybody and ignoring them when they speak to her or wave to her just because she's depressed and better than everyone else. No, no, NO!
Her sarcasm isn't funny, her jokes aren't funny, her constant judgemental attitude isn't funny.

Apparently Oseman was 17 when she wrote this, and you can tell. I will give another one of her books a go in future because you can't judge someone from their first book, but for me the issue was not the writing but the problematic lack of arc and the ignorant perspective that this was written from. You can almost tell it's been written by a 17-year-old who doesn't believe anybody can help teenagers.

I just think this book is one big mess of dangerous ideas mixed with unlikeable characters and no decent messages to be learnt from it and I would not recommend any teenager ever read this for the problematic ideas it may give them.

Sorry to rant, I don't do this often! But mental health depiction in books is something I think should be done carefully, and in my own book I did my best to be as accurate and helpful as I could be. Maybe I could have done more, but Solitaire really offered nothing for me.

Love, C x


  1. I agree with everything you said here. But you should definitely give her book 'Radio Silence a go, it's my favourite YA contemporary which wrote 2 years later and it's really good and you can see a huge improvement.

  2. I read this because I read about Alice Oseman recently, but also because I work with teenagers and have two sons who have been up and down and needing therapy, and the biggest problem here was the complete lack of adult presence in the books. Parents are absent and/or completely uninterested in their children. I also thought Tori came across as ASD rather than depressed. I found it a really worrying book.


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