Review: Solitaire by Alice Oseman – Wow, you are bitter

SolitaireSolitaire by Alice Oseman
Published by: HarperTeen on March 30, 2015
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 368
Source: Edelweiss
Book Details
Rating: Did Not Finish

In case you're wondering, this is not a love story.

My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year—before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people—I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that's all over now.

Now there's Solitaire. And Michael Holden.

I don't know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don't care about Michael Holden.

I really don't.

This incredible debut novel by outstanding young author Alice Oseman is perfect for fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell and all unflinchingly honest writers.

I stopped reading this book at 27%.

Let’s talk about Solitaire

In the book, Solitaire is some kind of blog/prankster group. We learn pretty quickly that their blog URL is http://solitaire.co.uk . My first thought (which continued to bug me throughout the book) was: “There’s no way this domain name would be available.” I’m pretty sure every non-obscure dictionary word is taken at this point (at least with the original and most common TLDs, like .com, .net, .co.uk). And solitaire.co.uk was in fact registered about five years ago.

I know this is a STUPID ASS thing to be annoyed about, but I couldn’t get it to stop nagging me. That kind of stuff bugs me… #nerd.

But beyond that, Solitaire (the group) didn’t excite me. I know I only read to 27%, which isn’t that far, but they just seemed like a stupid group who thought highly of themselves. And to make things even worse, some of the “hacking” things they did just seemed too far-fetched. Solitaire has basically “hacked” the whole school. They do all these pranks by messing with the speakers, TVs, and computers. At one point in the book, they somehow lock Tori inside a room, take control of a computer, open up Microsoft Word, type a message, and manage to disable keyboard/mouse inputs (so Tori bashing the keyboard doesn’t do anything). This was all done remotely.

I thought this seemed VERY unlikely. Sure, it might be possible to hack in and remote desktop into a computer if you knew the exact one and were familiar with the system, but the circumstances just seemed too far-fetched. Especially when Tori tried bashing on the keyboard and got no response. So I decided to consult Coding God on this matter. I told him about the circumstances and mentioned it’s a school (that’s important). He says:

[The hackers] would need to find an exploit [the system] is vulnerable to, even though it’s not likely running any services. Most schools are running firewall/antivirus and aren’t listening for incoming connections. It would be very difficult/improbable. Basically, if it was up to date on patches as well then no way. Unless those kids have zero day exploits that most experts are dying to find. 😛

Coding God: software engineer with a degree in computer science

I know this is a fiction book and it doesn’t have to be accurate. But when I read a contemporary book, I don’t like having improbable or even fantasy-like elements in there. I guess it’s just hard for me because I am a tech nerd and I like the hacking I read in books to sound reasonable, or at least have the steps/actions explained. Fair enough that maybe they’re explained later on and I just didn’t get that far… but in the moment it did annoy me and made the book less enjoyable.

Oh, then, at 24% a character got on the computer and opened up Internet Explorer. I mean, seriously? Internet Explorer? Kill me now. And if there are any readers out there who do use IE, please switch to Chrome or Firefox immediately. (I’m not kidding. IE sucks and is commonly known to be the worst browser out there. Do yourself a favour and switch.)

Tori is one bitter bitch

This main character (Tori) was one of the most unlikeable characters I’ve read in a long time. She was bitter, bitchy, and pessimistic. It’s like she didn’t know how to smile or laugh, but she was an expert on being judgemental and looking down on people.

“Everyone else sucks! I’m the only real person in the world!”

I think this might have been the most frustrating part of Solitaire for me. Tori is bitter. She’s pessimistic and judgemental. She doesn’t seem to like people at all. She walks around with this “I’m better than you because I don’t conform” attitude. I felt like she looked down on EVERYONE and it was exhausting.

The large majority of teenagers who attend Higgs are soulless, conformist idiots. I have successfully integrated myself into a small group of girls who I consider to be “good people,” but sometimes I still feel that I might be the only person with a consciousness, like a video game protagonist, and everyone else are computer-generated extras who have only a select few actions, such as “initiate meaningless conversation” and “hug.”

She even kind of admits how bitter, pessimistic, and boring she is when she says this at one point:

“Can you imagine me being excited about anything?”

“My mom is so annoying so I’m going to be a bitch to her”

Tori had such a weird relationship with her mom. I don’t know if there was a bad history there or what, but she was kind of a bitch to her. I didn’t think it was ‘cool’ or necessary. It just made her look even more annoying and bitchy.

“Tori,” says Mum, “Oliver should have been in bed an hour ago.”
Oliver doesn’t seem to hear her. I glance up from the race.
“That’s not really my job,” I say.

“I like to snap at people for no reason”

This character Lucas gets introduced and he and Tori used to be best friends. So he starts talking about how much she’s changed since he last knew her, and she decides to be all snappy and bitchy to him, just because. In fact, she seems pretty snappy to him throughout the whole book (that I read). But poor Lucas was never anything but nice.

“You’re so different,” he says […]. “You’re more serious.”
[…] “I’m, well, I am probably the least funny person since Margaret Thatcher.”
“No, but you were always dreaming up all these imaginary games. Like our Pokémon battles. Or the secret base you made out of the cornered-off section of the playground.”
“Would you like to have a Pokémon battle?” I fold my arms. “Or am I too unimaginative for that?”
“No.” He’s digging himself into a hole, and it’s actually quite funny to watch. “I—oh, I don’t know.”

“Sometimes I do stupid, pointless things for no reason”

At one point, Tori gets recruited to be part of kind of a campus lookout type programme. Solitaire is pranking the school and they want students to patrol the school and be on the lookout for them (break-ins, suspicious behaviour, etc.). So the leader gives Tori her number just in case she sees anything while on her watch and…

“Here’s my number.”
I nod at her and go to walk off.
“Er, Tori?”
“Yeah?”
“You look a bit—” She doesn’t finish her sentence.
It’s 7:00 a.m. She can piss off.
I walk away, throwing the piece of paper in a bin as I pass it.

So she throws away the number immediately. Then when she DOES see something, she doesn’t have the number to call the girl. Then she decides not to tell her anyway. Yeah, stupid.

“I hate books because they’re boring”

I think this was the final straw for me Tori-wise. She admits that she hates books.

Coming out as a book hater to my dad is comparable to coming out as gay to homophobic parents.

It was at that point that I realized: I love books! Why should I waste my time reading about a bitter bitch who hates them?

Please, make it end!

I spent like three days just getting to the 27% mark. Tori was incredibly unlikeable and there was nothing in the plot or other characters that hooked me in. I had no desire to keep reading and every desire to start Take Me On by Katie McGarry. So long, Solitaire.

The Verdict

meh

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23 comments

    1. I’m jealous that you loved this Leah! I so badly WANTED to love it because it was a cool idea and it’s a British book! I don’t read enough UKYA. I hate it when things just don’t work out sometimes…

      I’m so happy you enjoyed it though!

    1. Yeah, sadly sometimes I just feel like I can’t read tech books… but that makes me really sad because I would LOVE to read a good tech book! The problem is just that a lot of authors get it wrong and end up talking about stuff that’s really unbelievable to someone who knows what they’re talking about. 🙁

  1. You know, I’ve actually been wondering about this one. When I was in Waterstones a week or two ago I picked it up but then quickly put it back down because I really hadn’t read any reviews and wasn’t sure if it was worth it. I’m glad I made that decision. I’m not sure if the things you mentioned would bother me as much as they did you, but with so many unread books I rather not take that chance. I’m a huge character-driven reader so if I can’t like the MC it will be hard for me to like the book, and if this MC is as unlikeable and annoying as you say she is, I definitely won’t like her. So yes! Thanks for the review and for making me feel like I made the right choice the last time I was in Waterstones, haha.

    Asti @ Oh, the Books! recently posted: August Mini Reviews 2014
  2. Wow, that girl sounds like she has serious issues! I probably shouldn’t judge it by the excerpts alone because I don’t really know the context, but I have a feeling I wouldn’t like her at all. Even though the bit about “initiate meaningless conversation” made me grin a bit.

    Haha it’s virtually impossible to get that kind of domain, I’m pretty sure that would have thrown me out for a moment too. 😀 I probably wouldn’t have minded that she hates books though. Any recs for good books with hacking in them?

    1. Here are a few hacking books:

      Insignia by S.J. Kincaid – It’s not alla bout hacking, but it’s kind of like boarding school + tech + outer space + virtual reality + programming. Thus, some hacking is present. It’s cool!

      Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon goes both ways. On the one hand, it does have some really cool hacking/virus elements in it. I loved the references to Anonymous/hacktivism. But there were a couple things I took issue with (as I highlighted in my pretty “issues” table 😀 ).

      Find Me by Romily Bernard was a lot of fun! There was one tiny hacking thing I took issue with, but Romily was SO cool about it. She even asked me to consult for her on the second book and kind of fact check the hacks! I haven’t read the second one yet (except for the excerpts I fact checked for her) but I can’t wait!!

      I haven’t read Orla’s Code by Fiona Pearse yet, but I’ve been meaning to. It’s not about hacking, but it is about programming. I’m curious!

    1. Oh that reminds me, have you heard of this new show called Scorpion? It’s based on some famous genius :p It’s basically Justice League if they’d traded in their superpowers for computer smarts and hacking skills. My boyfriend loved the first episode this week and when I read about it, I immediately thought of you!

    2. I know!!! Why would readers want to read a book about someone who hates books? The logic… X_X

      I haven’t heard of Scorpion! I’ll have to check it out!

  3. Giggling a bit at the coding rants, but I totally understand! Also: Internet Explorer sucks. I have to use it at my job because our online programs ONLY work with IE. Worst day ever when I figured that out.

    I was thinking of reading this book, but Tori would have made me want to jump off the nearest cliff. Just reading those snippets had me cringing! Take Me On is a MUCH better choice anyway 😉

    1. You poor, poor girl!! I think it’s horrible that so many work places and schools default to using IE. When will they learn?!?!

  4. Sooo Tori is a snarky annoying teenage girl. JUST THE TROPE I AVOID. Also, you can’t have a character who HATES books. Then NO ONE will relate to her. Ugh, just ugh.

    I hadn’t read of this one before. Sounds just like you said, “meh.”

    Amber Elise @Du Livre

    1. Agreed!!

      Who’s going to read your books?
      Book lovers.

      Who do you not want to alienate?
      Book lovers.

      Who will hate a character who hates books?
      Book lovers.

      X_X

  5. Wow okay I am DEFINITELY avoiding this one now. Tori seems like a character that I would want to punch in the face–I absolutely hate people who think they are better than everyone else. And yeah, IE is pretty horrible. At first i didn’t see what was so bad about it but then I switched to Chrome about a year ago and can see why IE is so bad.

    Thanks for the helpful review, Ashley! <33

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