Book Highlight: Pretending by Holly Bourne

book highlight pretending holly bourne
Pretending by holly Bourne

Title: Pretending

Author: Holly Bourne

Publisher: MIRA

Publication Date: November 17, 2020

Genre: Women’s Fiction

He said he was looking for a “partner in crime,” which everyone knows is shorthand for “a woman who isn’t real.”

April is kind, pretty and relatively normal—yet she can’t seem to get past date five. Every time she thinks she’s found someone to trust, they reveal themselves to be awful, leaving her heartbroken. And angry. Until she realizes that men aren’t looking for real women—they’re looking for Gretel.

Gretel is perfect—beautiful but low-maintenance, sweet but never clingy, sexy but not too easy. She’s your regular, everyday Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl-Next-Door with no problems.

When April starts pretending to be Gretel, dating becomes much more fun—especially once she reels in the unsuspecting Joshua. Finally, April is the one in control. It’s refreshing. Exhilarating, even. But as she and Joshua grow closer, and the pressure of keeping her painful past a secret begins to build, how long will she be able to keep on pretending?

Why This Book

Pretending is more than the fun women’s fiction the description makes it out to be, especially during the second half. April isn’t just dealing with a painful past; she’s suffering from trauma from being raped. This is something she carries throughout the story, from when she determines a woman like Gretel is what she needs to be to get a man to when she starts to deal with the trauma face on and find a future with Joshua. She’s complicated and messy, and there are these two halves of her constantly struggling against each other. But I’ve picked April as a courageous woman because she deals with the trauma every day and, as the story unfolds, finds a way to start to heal and take control of her life instead of letting it define her.


My review: “Throughout the novel, though, the reader gets to see her, gets to know her, as she’s stripped down to her core. Her life has been heavily impacted from being raped. She’s complex and feels like a normal woman, but, like normal women, only thinks she’s crazy. Gretel made me cringe a little, but I did love that it takes her a step closer to being able to take control of her life, despite the price it demands”

Good Book Fairy gave this 3.5 stars, saying “April is a character that many women can relate to; she has a lot to offer but lacks what she most desires, a boyfriend. She also survived a rape, which has taken years to emotionally and physically (yes, physically) work through. She’s multifaceted and stronger thank she knows. It was a joy to watch her develop as the book progressed”

Author Anthony Avina’s Blog gave this a 10 out of 10, saying “The way the author showcases the impact this event has had on the protagonist’s psyche is really engaging to read, and how the character evolves over the course of the narrative keeps the reader invested throughout”

Just a Lil’ Lost gave this 3 stars, saying “Through this growing support system, at times from unlikely sources, April is able to go a journey of self discovery, building back her own self confidence and forcing her to reassess her preconceived notions of what guys like or don’t like”

Novels and Teacups gave this 3.5 stars, saying “The strongest parts of the novel for me were the open and honest way in which this is portrayed, the like of which I don’t think I’ve seen in contemporary fiction. It gives a voice to survivors and shows their strength in finding a way through”

Bookshine and Readbows said “Pretending has deep emotional undercurrents and speaks strongly to those who have experienced or witnessed male-on-female aggression and oppression, in a way that manages to be both lightly entertaining and heartbreaking at the same time”

Purchase Links

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Apple Books | Kobo | Google Books | | Books Kinokuniya (Singapore) | Abe Books | Audible | The Gutter Bookshop (Ireland) | !ndigo (Canada) | Audiobooks | Book Depository | Empire Bookstore (Phillipines) | Booktopia (Australia) | Flipkart (India)

Check out all the other books featured this month on The Curated Bookshelf.

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