Solitaire is the debut novel by YA Prize winning author, Alice Oseman (see below). It's a 390-page novel all about friendship, the feeling of running out of time and dealing with bad mental health; it was originally published in 2014 when Oseman was just 19.
The book then rose to some fame due to certain social media apps such as Tumblr. More recently, following the increasing popularity of Oseman’s graphic novel series, Heartstopper (which is being made into a Netflix TV show), Solitaire has seen a sudden burst of success. It has been dubbed The No.1 TikTok Made me Buy It book. "Solitaire is a breath of fresh air in the young adult genre"
Solitaire has an exciting plot. Following the start of spring term at Harvey “Higgs” Greene Grammar School, Tori Spring starts to notice a change. Not just because of the sudden influx of new students to her sixth form class, but also because of her loneliness - even when surrounded by friendly faces. One of these friendly faces is the infamously weird Michael Holden. However, when the mysterious blog Solitaire starts wreaking havoc all over Higgs and the surrounding town, Tori is forced to face all the problems she’s been desperate to drown in half-finished movies and bad English essays.
Solitaire is a breath of fresh air in the young adult genre. When I was first recommended the book on TikTok, I was sceptical. The plot sounded quite generic, and I wasn’t fond of Tori, who sounded like the typical “not like the other girls'' stereotype. Never was I so glad I had incorrectly judged a book by its cover. This book was one of the most accurate depictions of teenage depression I have ever seen.
Tori is refreshingly realistic. She never tries to convince that she is a perfect person. Being inside her head, you see all the backhanded comments she makes and how both the reader and Tori know that her reasons aren’t always completely just. Sometimes she’s tired, which is something a lot of people can relate too.
The dynamic between Tori and Michael was sweet and frankly unexpected. For much of the book, they share moments of pure friendship that just melted my heart. Michael himself was an unexpected favourite of mine. Throughout the book he struggles with not feeling good enough and the loneliness of being authentically yourself. Other characters worth mentioning are Tori’s brother, Charlie and his boyfriend Nick, who are the main characters of Oseman’s graphic novel series (the one being turned into a TV show). They were both great characters and added an interesting point of view on what it's like watching a loved one in pain.
Like most character-driven books, the actual plot was mediocre, with its peak in quality at around the halfway mark. My least favourite part of the book is the “big” reveal.
The whole book had been teasing the mystery of the anonymous Solitaire, whose been terrorizing Tori and the community. And while I didn’t guess who it was, once it was revealed, I found their reason behind going to all the trouble of being Solitaire and performing all these elaborate pranks frankly quite stupid. It felt as though the author regretted putting Solitaire in in the first place but didn’t want to restart the entire book, so they settled on the most cliché solution and moved on to the next thing.
Overall, I would give this book a 4 star rating as, while the book lacked with plot, the characters really did make up for it. I would recommend this book to years 9 and up, although keep in mind my trigger warnings, which can be found both online and in the front of the physical book.