I really enjoyed How Do You Like Me Now by Holly Bourne so I was keen to explore her other books. I picked up The Places I’ve Cried in Public and I read it over the week. This is what I thought of it.
Firstly, the character is much younger than the character in How Do You Like Me Now. Tori Bailey is 31, and Amelie in The Places I’ve Cried in Public is doing her A-Levels (she’s around 16-17). I know age is just a number, but it’s a while since I’ve done my A-Levels and I felt like I connected more to Tori because she was more around my age. That’s not to say Amelie hasn’t experienced any problems in life. The theme of the book, regardless of the protaganist’s youth, is actually quite dark.
The book starts as Amelie has moved to the south of England as her parents had to relocate for work. She is starting a new school and is obviously anxious to fit in. The narrative reads as a typical teenager would think, and Holly Bourne encapsulates anxieties teenagers often go through and their internal monologue. Amelie is a singer, and at a music competition she meets fellow musician Reese. She’s absolutely besotted, and for a while he seems besotted with her as well.
The book then fast-forwards and she is trying to recover from the mental abuse Reese inflicted upon her. Her therapist suggested a sort of mind map, where she visits places where something significant has happened. At each place, she recalls the event. Such as when she went to London and Reese got angry at her because she joined a busker in singing.
Her recollections of the pleasant times with Reese are interwoven with abusive and manipulative memories. Holly Bourne does this rather cleverly, and at first the abuse is barely perceptible to the reader. We only really get clues that something is not right because of how the other characters react to Reese. He almost manages to manipulate us as much as he does Amelie.
“It’s such a simple torture – the silent treatment. […] And yet it’s so very effective. When someone has the willpower to pretend you’re not there, it nullifies you. How do you fight against that humiliation?”Amelie – The Places I’ve Cried in Public
It’s clear throughout the book that Amelie is torn. Holly Bourne successfully portrayed how sometimes victims of abuse and manipulation would blame themselves for something, block out negative memories and focus on “nicer” times. Even after recalling the unpleasant memories, Amelie still has the temptation to go back to Reese when he gives her a bit of attention. She’s still convinced things would be good again. It’s almost as if she regards Reese as both the poison and the antidote.
Holly Bourne – The Places I’ve Cried in Public – My Thoughts
When I first started reading this book, I thought it was going to be quite “tweeny”. I’m almost twice the age of Amelie! However, the subject matter one that I think anyone could experience at any age and it’s extremely serious and raw. Some of it was uncomfortable reading but I applaud Holly Bourne for really portraying the psyche of someone who has been abused and how they do not always realise it, and even when they do how it grips them and makes it so hard to walk away. I also think she really effectively wrote about manipulation. None of it was ham fisted or clumsy, it was very subtle but powerful.
“I’m grieving for my parents, who still can’t believe such a thing could happen to their own little girl, not when they’d tried very hard to protect me from boys like you.”Amelie – The Places I’ve Cried in Public
My only criticism, and I brushed upon it earlier, is that I didn’t fully connect with Amelie. It was partly an age thing, and also sometimes her attitude towards her friends in the beginning. Aside from that, I really recommend it. It’s equal parts gripping and gut wrenching and will definitely leave an impression.
What have you been reading lately?
*This post contains affiliate links