Holly Bourne introduced us to Evie, Lottie and Amber in the first book of her Normal series, Am I Normal Yet? last year. Evie’s story was powerful and fascinating, detailing her mental health issues, as well as striking out at the patriarchy and establishing the now famous Spinster Club.
In How Hard Can Love Be? we follow Amber’s summer in the United States, travelling to see her mother and work at her father-in-law’s summer camp in California. Fortunately, Amber also checks in with the rest of the Spinster Club throughout the story and these are probably the strongest sections.
Amber is an interesting character in that she is insecure about her height and her looks, and she finds that she is unique in her own way. You really feel for her as she tries to reconnect with her mother after a few years of absence, realising that her mother is different now. Here also is one of the funniest recurring themes of the book: Amber’s disdain for ‘Bumface’ Kevin, her mother’s new husband. Amber’s inner monologue is hilarious and the funniest lines come from these lines.
The change of scenery from the first book also marks this one out as quite different and the little nods back to the stories of the first book are welcome at the same time. The conversations with Evie and Lottie are brilliant, as they were in the first book, and really serve as a primer for Lottie’s book coming up next. Lottie has a dark sense of humour and is the most articulate and intelligent of the group, so it will be interesting to get inside her head.
Amber’s story, meanwhile, deals with some serious issues like the first book, but the gentle love story as alluded to in the title is interesting as well, addressing some of the concerns around there being no ‘nice boys’ in the first book.
An enjoyable read and fits in well with the themes of Am I Normal Yet?, this book also confirms that it’s a great world that Holly Bourne has built, full of strong female characters reflective of contemporary culture.