August 19 2021
Solitaire, by Alice Oseman
Author: Alice Oseman
Genre/ issues: Mental health.
One of my literary joys of 2020 was discovering the work of Alice Oseman. I’m jumping around in their work, not reading in any particular order, and over the past couple of days I’ve finally gotten to their first novel. What a powerhouse of emotion Solitaire is! Set in the same world as the Heartstopper series, this novel focuses on Charlie Spring’s sister Tori. She sees herself as fundamentally serious – “As far as I’m concerned, I came out of the womb spouting cynicism and wishing for rain.” She finds herself increasingly disconnected from her friend group, and caught up in the mystery blog, Solitaire, which is pulling increasingly elaborate pranks around their school and is building up to something big. And then there’s two guys who come into her life at the same time. Lucas, who was her childhood best friend, was seemingly wants to rekindle their friendship. And Michael. Michael Holden, who acts like they already ARE BFF’s, and insists on spending time together. Tori doesn’t hate it … but she also doesn’t understand it. Because … well, why would anyone want to spend time with someone as messed up as her?
Solitaire has the same characters as Heartstopper, and similarly deals with mental health, however it’s quite a different tone. Whilst Oseman balances light and dark beautifully in all their work, Heartstopper skews towards the light. Solitaire explores the dark. That might explain why, despite the emotional and mental health triggers for me in this book, I felt so comfortable inside its pages. It felt like home to me. I appreciated the reminder that sometimes “alone” is more a feeling than a reality. A powerful and beautifully written novel that will stay with me for a long time.
CW: references to suicidal ideation and attempts, depression, eating disorders, and OCD. Oseman’s website contains more detail about possible triggering ideas and content, and is worth referring to before you read any of their work.