Review: The Places I’ve Cried in Public

The queen of UK YA has done it again. Holly Bourne’s new book, The Places I’ve Cried in Public, is her most powerful story yet. It follows Amelie as she retraces the steps of her relationship with Reese, specifically all the places he made her cry. This is a brilliant and heartbreaking book about abuse, and is honestly the best story I’ve ever read on the subject.

Trigger warning: as this is a story about relationship abuse, it contains a lot of triggers for anyone who has ever been in a situation like that. Please read with caution.

I was extremely lucky to get a signed proof copy of this book at YALC in July. Through a raffle, the team from Usborne were giving out two copies each day of the convention, and I showed up to every draw with my fingers and toes crossed. Somehow, as the ticket was being drawn for the final copy on the Sunday, I heard my number called! I seriously couldn’t believe my luck.

You see, this book was more important to me than a simple ‘I like Holly Bourne!’ (though I really do). It was important to me for two reasons. First, it’s very similar thematically to the book that I am writing, and I was keen to see how another writer – one whose writing I already greatly admired – tackled such a difficult subject. Second, much like our young protagonist Amelie, I was in an abusive relationship when I was a teenager, and I could tell before reading a word that I would find representation in this story.

I was lucky enough to speak to Holly Bourne after her Friday workshop at YALC, and as I told her:

I wish I’d had a book like this when I was younger. It could have saved me a lot of trouble.

Of course, having that history made some parts of this book very difficult to read, but overall it was extremely cathartic and if anything made me appreciate the importance of this story more than I otherwise might. At times it hit so close to home that I began to wonder if there was any point in finishing my own book at all – my experience was already represented so well on these pages. However, I quickly dismissed those thoughts because this is the first book I’ve ever read that has done this, and we urgently need more. My book wouldn’t just be more of the same, it would be adding to this very important conversation.

The story switches from present-day-Amelie to past-Amelie through flashbacks and retrospectives. The use of hindsight is really important in this story, in order to highlight all of Reese’s problematic behaviour as it happens. It can be quite tricky to juggle two separate timelines as a writer, especially in terms of choosing what information to reveal, but Bourne executes this narrative structure so well she makes it look easy.

There were so many details that made this book amazing. Fleeting thoughts and feelings that would cross Amelie’s mind, the psychological minutiae of living with abuse. They’re such small details that would be so easy to miss or gloss over, but Holly Bourne hits the nail on the head with them every time.

This is the most important book I’ve read since Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, and I would highly recommend it to the following people:

  • anyone who is interested in psychology and mental health
  • anyone who has ever been in an abusive relationship (if they can manage it)
  • anyone who is or ever has been a teenage girl
  • anyone who likes reading YA
  • anyone who likes reading
  • anyone

Honestly, this book felt like therapy. We need more books like this, that talk about difficult subjects that we tend to stay quiet on. And more importantly, we need to ask the girl crying alone at the bus stop, bench, dance floor, train waiting-room, the school bathroom, anywhere, if she is okay. We need to act like human beings and try to help people that are clearly struggling.

More books like this one will help us do that.

 

The Places I’ve Cried in Public comes out on October 3rd, and you can pre-order it here.

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