Monday, 11 December 2017

Cat Clarke: Girlhood | Book Review

I stumbled across this novel whilst browsing my local library and was instantly drawn to it after seeing the unique cover and reading the blurb. I quickly became aware that this novel was on the Zoella & Friends 2017 Book Club; a club that I trust after previously finding some of my all time favourite novels through it.

This novel follows the life of Harper, who has made the decision to go to an expensive boarding school after the death of her twin sister, Jenna, to escape her past. Harper struggled to explain to her parents why she wanted to go away, "if i'd have told the truth it would have broken them. I couldn't bare to be around them anymore. I could not stay in this house without Jenna." Duncraggan Castle Academy isn’t exactly what Harper was expecting when moving to boarding school but she soon finds herself an inseperatable group of friends, her own sisterhood, a friendship group so close that nothing would tear them apart, or so she thought.

That was until the new girl arrived, Kirsty Connor who took a sudden interest into Harper’s life, a girl who Harper spent a lot of time with and thought she could trust. Kirsty was just like Harper, she wasn’t rich and she had also lost a sister. Little did Harper know that Kirsty’s life was made up of lies, lies that make her fit in. 

When Harper and Kirsty’s friendship grows, it starts to put a strain on Harper’s relationships with her old group of friends, who could see straight through Kirsty and was concerned that Harper was losing her identity, and becoming somebody else who they didn’t like. They knew that Kirsty was trouble and for us readers, it was very clear from the beginning that there was something off about Kirsty. Harper learnt the hard way that she couldn’t trust Kirsty after the news got around the school that her parents are only wealthy after winning the lottery, which ironically happened to her father "the day after his daughter died." Kirsty was one of the few individuals who knew this about Harper. But what do you do when you've put all of your trust into somebody who you feel like you know so well, for their whole identity to be fake?

At times throughout the novel, it is clear that Harper feels a large sense of loneliness, especially when she thinks of how she was meant to be having all of these new experiences with her twin sister by her side. However, she always feels alone to some extend at boarding school, as though she doesn't fit in due to her background. "They don't care about money, because they've never had to think about it." 

As we read through the novel, we learn more about Jenna and about her Anorexia, which ended up killing her. Harper blames herself for her sisters death, making her grief much more difficult and keeps her from telling people the truth. "It's too tiring, telling the story over and over again. Working so hard to make sure you don't tell the whole truth." I believe that Jenna's illness is an important aspect of this story as it proves just how dangerous eating disorders can be, and how innocently they can start. We learn why Harper blames herself and she often talks about how she could have prevented her death, if only she caught onto her twin sisters eating disorder sooner. "My twin sister was fifteen years old when she died. She weighed just under five stone. It had started as a post-Christmas diet. A diet that was my idea." Books that show mental illness in their true forms are some of my favourites, as awareness is essential. Anorexia is such a serious disease that does kill, and more people need to be aware of it, as well as how easily and unintentionally it can start. Anorexia isn't the only modern day topic that needs more awareness to be included in this novel, a large mention of LGBTQ+ as well as Sex and Anxiety are spoken about and all of the characters are so understanding about all of these issues, this is how the modern society should be. One extract in particular that I noticed within this novel, was when Harper explains how Jenna had sent an 'after' photo of herself to one of her 'ana' friends, who praised her on how she looked. We are all aware that there are various websites that promote self destruction and mental health problems, we all know to stay away from them but unfortunately some people do fall into their traps and this does allow other people to promote and worsen their conditions, in Jenna's case, leading to death.

This novel is overwhelmingly full of emotion, you experience everything with Harper, her anger, sadness, loneliness and guilt. You feel not only her loss of her sister, but of her friends as they all go through the highs and lows of being teenage girls, all living together. It has been a while since I found a book as emotive as this one. The tension and mystery within this novel is used in such a unique way that you really don't know what direction the next page will take you in. There are definitely highs and lows and at times, the emotion really did feel raw and real. I really love the style of writing used, this novel was addictive, exciting and so easy to read, I loved not only the writing, but the variety within this book, the characters who were so easy to relate to and even the cosy, stereotypical boarding school setting.

I must admit, one thing that puts me off loving certain novels is their ending. I usually end up so disappointed with endings of novels as I usually hope for it to be different. With this novel, I had no idea what to expect at the end, it was a complete mystery to me and I couldn't have guessed, I actually did enjoy this ending. I adored this novel the entire way through and am keen to have a read of some of Cat Clarke's other books. Have you read this novel? What did you think? I rated this novel 4.5 stars out of five and would highly recommend. 

"One day, I hope to leave the shadow behind me. I choose to believe in the possibility, and that's enough. For now."

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

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