I had avoided reading Holly Bourne after I tried to read Soulmates at publication in 2013 and found I couldn’t associate with the characters. About a week ago I was looking through my shelves for something I’d had for a long time but not read yet and landed on The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting.
My first impression was it would be a contemporary makeover story about a frumpy glasses-wearing girl who, with a new haircut, becomes the most popular girl in school. To some extent it is exactly this, but what I hadn’t counted on is that it would be an insightful and heartfelt parody of those stories.
The main gist of the story is that Bree is constantly being rejected by publishers for her book, so her English teacher suggests it’s because she isn’t writing about things that are interesting. In order to become a better writer Bree decided to infiltrate the most popular group in the school and discover what makes them interesting, and gain life experience along the way. I saw so much of myself in the main character, Bree. She’s a girl who lives on the outskirts of society, spending most of her time reading, writing or criticising the modern world with her best friend, Holdo. She’s wealthy and goes to a private school but is down-to-earth and completely relatable. Part of the story’s charm is it could have been set anywhere and the interpersonal dynamics would have remained the same.
“Do you think maybe your writing isn’t going anywhere because you’re unhappy? Because you’re not living the life you could? A life worth writing about?”
The book is glittered with pitch-perfect comments on the constructs of high school society and hierarchy, especially popular boys who, as Bree’s Mom puts it “…have never once not got the girl, so they’re never scared of losing the girl. And if they’re not scared of losing you they’ll screw you about”. There are theories aplenty here; about how life is easy for attractive people because that attractiveness is valued more highly in society than the people themselves. It questions how much ‘attractive’ and ‘interesting’ really interlink, and challenges how we are supposed to interpret those ideals.