How Do You Like Me Now?






Holly Bourne, Queen of UK YA literature, has published her first adult book. A move I never foresaw– but it did happen, and I am glad for it. The best part of her adult novel is that the vibe is still wholly Holly Bourne style, just with older characters and adult themes. How Do You Like Me Now? is a literary journey on how social media can also affect mental health in adulthood.

The book follows writer and influencer, Tori Bailey, during a time in her life where she has ‘peaked’ in life. At twenty-eight, she has published a best-selling book about not following conventions and living life the way she wants to, without giving a care about anything else around her. The cherry on top of the pudding is her long-term boyfriend, Tom, who she loves dearly. But, as the blurb clearly says, Tori has been living a lie. Not everything is as it seems, and Tori’s unhealthy obsession with forever trying prove to herself and others that everything is fine. Time stands still as she looks back and realises that her happiness lies in the validation of others – and her real happiness is somewhere else, untouchable. Her toxic relationship with Tom is tearing at the seams, but she is too afraid to break things off as it will involve telling her hundreds of loyal fans that she is in fact not as perfect as she makes out to be. The book is packed with relevant issues in today’s adult world – the same issues that we thought were more prevalent in teenagers and young adults, but are in fact creeping into the lives of adults everywhere today.

For anyone past the university stage of life, there is the actual dread of growing up – as well as figuring what it means to grow up. For Tori, does it mean turning long term relationships into marriage and kids? Does it mean it’s about time she whips out another book? Throughout the novel, we can sense that she feels she is at a dead-end. Her second book is almost impossible to write (what does she write about now?) – and Tom isn’t even interested in talking about having kids. Tom and Tori’s relationship is really tense – just reading through the passages of their interactions, it makes you cringe. We don’t get to see the love that Tori’s book talks about. We see what’s beneath the surface. The amount of hostility and refusal to communicate from Tom, and Tori’s desperation is smothering. But real life romantic relationships are like this, especially after a good few years down the line. Emotional abuse between couples is a very prominent issue – and Holly Bourne has hit the nail on the head with the portrayal in this one.

Tom and Tori are not very likeable characters – but that’s the point. To show how as adults sometimes we can progress into ugly caricatures of what we once were. Plus, how people can recognize it in themselves and make an effort to do something about it. Personally, I know people who have changed over the years. For good and for bad.

Now, onto the use of social media to distract the characters from facing their issues… Tori loves getting gushing messages and comments from her fans on how inspiring she is to them. She loves the likes, the support and all the magic of being a popular writer. Yet, somewhere down the line, Tori begins to suffer from the pressure of trying to keep herself picture perfect. The strain becomes evident – her muse for writing has gone, her creativity has diminished – and even though at the back of her mind she knows why, she refuses to accept it.


Holly Bourne perfectly captures the struggle of balance in life – the balance between personal relationships, self-appreciate and work. When one exceeds another, that’s when things go awry.

Having said that, here a few things I wish Holly Bourne had focused more on:

There is a theme of self-harm – not a very prominent theme, but it’s there. And I wish Holly had developed this issue more – i.e Tori’s realisation that harming herself to overshadow her emotional and mental strain needed to be dealt with. In the book, Tori goes to see a therapist because of her neediness. Yes, Tori was a little too needy and desperate at times – but mostly in her darkest times she had no one to reach out to, so she was always begging for attention, for affection from Tom, for communication in the relationship, and for balance in her life. In my opinion, Tori needed a therapist – not for her neediness (as Tom so very harshly put it), but for her self-harm and relationship issues.

You may roll your eyes at the thought of a novel being based on the ‘side-effects’ of social media addiction – but let’s be real here. Almost everyone uses some form of digital social platform – or even dabbled in it here and there. We use it for work, for self-promotion of our skills – and in some cases it is a creative outlet. But this book is about the dark side of over-using it, and looking for the wrong outcomes. Real life is important too – just find the perfect balance.


To finish off, here are some top tips from Holly herself, on how to stay sane online:


Holly Bourne, The Mix

If you’ve read this book and have some of your own thoughts, please leave a comment below!

Links:


Holly Bourne Website
Holly Bourne Website


Mental Health Awareness
Mental Health Awareness


How to Look After Your Mental Health
How to Look After Your Mental Health

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