I picked up these books as a three pack recently and they seemed perfect reading for the recent hot weather we’ve had here in the UK recently. For all I love ebooks, they aren’t ideal for intensely sunny days!
These books gave me so much hope for young adults today, and also sad for my days as a mentally ill, feminist teenager who would have loved these books. They would have helped me feel less alone at a time when I felt awful.
They focus on three friends who are going to college and – no spoilers here – decide to form the Spinster Club. It’s their way of a) reclaiming the word spinster and b) coming together to learn about feminism.
The first book is told by Evie who has Generalised Anxiety Disorder and OCD, actual OCD not just wanting her pencils straight:
“…now people use the phrase OCD to describe minor personality quirks .
“Oooh, I like my pens in a line, I’m so OCD.
NO YOU’RE FUCKING NOT!
Oh my God, I was so nervous about that presentation. I literally had a panic attack.
NO YOU FUCKING DIDN’T!
I’m so hormonal today. I just feel totally bipolar.
SHUT UP, YOU IGNORANT BUMFACE!”
– Am I Normal Yet?
It tells of her struggle with her mental health whilst in college and her overwhelming mission to be normal, to be like everyone else. It also tackles the issue of whether or not to tell your friends about your mental health and this hit me hard as it was such a big thing for me in high school. By the end of 6th form, only one person knew anything about my mental health, and what he knew was only a fragment. None of my so called close friends knew anything.
One review I saw made a comment about how a character in the book mocked mental health and how that undermined the praise the book got for tackling mental health. I wanted to add a note about this. I appreciate that it upset the reader but for me, it helped put Evie’s decision about telling her friends or not about her own diagnosis in context. People do still mock mental illness and make flippant comments and I suspect this is still very much the case in colleges and 6th forms. It certainly was back in my day and was part of the tapestry against which I had to cope with my mental ill health and was one of many factors which stopped me from telling anyone.
The second book looks at family dynamics and how a parent with alcoholism can affect this. There are also themes of gaslighting, step families and feeling invisible in this instalment of the Spinster Club series.
In the third, but not final*, book we see Lottie taking on the patriarchy, whilst also trying to follow her parents dream of her going to Cambridge and fast tracking it to become Prime Minister. The book opens with her being harassed on her way to college and how it weighs on her throughout the day; both the harassment and the fact she didn’t do anything when it happened. Something I’m sure many women can relate to.
*They return in …And A Happy New Year? which I haven’t got yet
Throughout the books, the mental health and feminism forms the background for the general teenage drama of relationships, romance and friendships. They are funny and moving and gripping. Difficult topics are approached sensitively and the feminism is delivered as an aid to the story, rather than shoe horned in.
I really liked that they were aware of feminism and feminist ideas and yet were still struggling with being teenage girls, full of hormones and emotions. They were girls talking about boys, talking about dates and so on but they were also self aware. I felt this made them realistic and relatable. No one is a ‘perfect’ feminist, especially not teenage girls!