I’ve been following Holly Bourne on twitter for months, so she was an obvious choice for something to take home for half term. It probably helped that it’s bright orange, and has a weird title. Also, I didn’t actually read it over half term (I barely read anything over half term), and it turned out that my work ID badge had slipped inside it, which led to quite a lot of panic.
The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting is about Bree, rich kid and aspiring writer, with a nail in her room with publishers’ rejection letters stuck on it, and she’s not even remotely popular. After some thought, she decides that, in order to become a better writer, she needs to become interesting, and that means popular.
I wasn’t sure, for maybe two thirds of the book, how much I liked it. I’ve often struggled with films and books about the popular kids at school, how they’re like royalty and also feared by everyone else, because my experience wasn’t like that. I wasn’t popular at school, but the group I remember as The Popular Ones weren’t like the Plastics in Mean Girls – they were pretty ordinary, really. So taking Bree’s account of them as universal experience was a bit of a stretch for me, as was her rejection of them. But once the bad stuff started happening – and it does, no holds barred – I got more absorbed. There is a very interesting event that considers consent in a way that doesn’t happen much, and the treatment of self-harm throughout the book is understanding and accepting. So I had a change of heart and, actually, I quite enjoyed it.
With its focus on self-harm, this is my second book on the Book Riot 2016 Reading Challenge: a book about a character with a mental illness. It’s not about self-harm, but it is about Bree, and self harm is something she – and other characters – struggles with throughout the book.