This is my first book by Holly Bourne, she is primarily a YA author and How Do You Like Me Now? is her adult novel debut. I whizzed through this in a few days, this is her funny, witty – and very knowingly cutting – take on the unsaid social and life conventions of women in their 30s compared to women in their 20s. It is a very contemporary read that holds a mirror up to our current society and cleverly navigates through the inexplicable pressure and expectations put on women – as well as making a strong point about the fakeness of social media.
Narrated by Tori Bailey, she is the author of a self-help book, Who the Fuck Am I? Inspiration struck her when she was backpacking around the world in her 20s and realised she hated the whole ‘travelling to find yourself’ culture, so wrote about her insights. Her book was a big success and she is now a social media star. Her fans look to her for help and advice as she is so in control: she has a great boyfriend, Tom and a very Insta-friendly life. But is it all really as perfect as Tori describes on social media? I loved this sentence that gives a little insight into the loved-up pics that Tori posts verses her reality, it hits the nail on the head about the reality of many modern relationships: ‘Tom watches the football with his headphones on while I curl up next to him on the sofa and watch something on my iPad with my headphones on. That way we can spend quality time together without having to talk or even have our brains in the same reality.’
Tori is a character that on paper I shouldn’t like, but I really did. Her unashamedly self-absorbed approach to social media to try and keep a version of herself relevant, the version she thought people wanted to see – Holly Bourne struck the perfect tone here – meant I didn’t dislike Tori in any way for using social media to gain gratification and acceptance, she is simply too deep into society’s conventions, that is until she has a wake up call and starts to look at things a little differently.
How Do You Like Me Now? perfectly describes the fragile, often fake digital world we find ourselves inhabiting these days. The pressure on women – especially once they hit their 30s – to live up to unrealistic expectations and ALWAYS appear to be living their best life on social media is quite ridiculous when you take a second to think about it. I’ll hold my hands up; I very much put up a curated view of my life on Instagram, but then you tend to only want to remember the good times, so they’re all I post about really. I’ve never given much thought to it, but there are definitely only a handful of pictures I take that I’d deem ‘good enough for Instagram’… I didn’t actually realise I did this until I read this book, food for thought.
There’s no big plot twist, but there is a very engrossing character development; How Do You Like Me Now? is like sitting down with a friend while she tells you about how her life is not going the way she thought it would and learning to accept that – or not. Written in a sharp, snappy, easy-to-read style, this was a great contemporary read that was relatable on so many levels and did make me think about my own social media presence and wonder how much of anything we see on feeds is real. The trick is to stop caring about projecting a perfect image, easier said than done, as Holly perfectly explores here.