Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne
From Goodreads: Welcome to Camp Reset, a summer camp with a difference. A place offering a shot at “normality” for Olive, a girl on the edge, and for the new friends she never expected to make – who each have their own reasons for being there. Luckily Olive has a plan to solve all their problems. But how do you fix the world when you can’t fix yourself?
Thanks so much to my awesome friend Moon for buying me a copy of this book at YALC. The novel was released a few days early at the convention, and I did read it just before it dropped, but I’ve been trying to catch up on reviews for a while so it’s taken a while to get around to it.
I really love Holly Bourne’s writing. There’s just something about it, something that manages to find that fine balance that allows a contemporary book to be both hilarious and meaningful. It Only Happens in the Movies was one of my favourite books of last year, and I recently got round to reading Bourne’s first adult novel just before meeting her at YALC. Both have some amazing topics that make me question things in our society, and both make me nod my head a bunch going, oh my god, yes. So as you can imagine, I was pretty excited for AWALAS?
Obviously, the book deals a lot with mental health problems, and all the issues you can imagine might crop up when broaching this subject. So, if you’re currently struggling with your mental health, this might be a hugely helpful book, or it might not be quite what you need right now. People work in different ways, but I feel like it helps to at least mention that the book deals with some pretty hefty issues.
I have to admit, I did struggle a bit with Olivia’s character, more so than I have done with other characters Bourne has created, but I think that might be the point. There were moments when Olivia was really relatable and so so human, and I loved her to pieces. And the next moment, she was off doing something that caused me to temporarily close the book in horror, because I sometimes felt like I didn’t want to read about the consequences of what she’d done. Which y’know, considering this is a contemporary fiction, there always are consequences. The fact that this book is so hard to read in places, and that the character is both relatable and not, is a sign of some utterly brilliant writing. Mental health problems are often lumped together. I’m forever being given bits of advice from well-meaning friends and strangers about my depression and anxiety and you kinda have to learn to bite your tongue to keep from saying: ‘yeah, that might help you, but I don’t work like that.’ This book is an excellent reminder that we’re all humans, and we’re all unique, and what works for one person might not work for another. The fact that I couldn’t always understand Olivia, or relate to some of the issues she faces in the book, is cool because I’m not Olivia and I don’t need to have dealt with the same things to realize what she’s going through. Interestingly, she states that she wants to handle her mental health problems without finding out what her diagnosis is, so I’m going to keep quiet about that one and let you guys find out for yourselves. That was an odd one for me. On the one hand, I thought before I read this book that knowing what your problem was, and being able to name it, was always a good thing. However, Olivia’s approach is different to mine: she’d rather not be pigeonholed into a category of illness so she and other people around her, can use it as an excuse for any of her behaviour. I think the book stresses that either approach is fine and acceptable, and again seeks to highlight the differences between individuals and their choices.
The rest of the characters at Camp Reset are also very fun and lifelike. My favourite was Jamie, who reminded me of several people I went to high school with, and I really loved Sophie too. There were several times in the book where I just wanted to punch the air to celebrate Sophie’s achievements and I felt so damned proud of her throughout. Other characters were a bit less likeable IMO. Still, they all represented a variety of personalities and approaches to their mental health and I feel like it really helped the story.
In terms of the actual message of the book, this concept that spreading kindness is important in the fight against people developing mental health problems such as depression; I think this book is spot on. Bourne has written an incredibly nuanced text about mental health and all the issues and stigmas attached to it. And obviously, kindness is something we REALLY need to be pushing in our society. Bourne is currently running a #KindnessisContagious campaign over on Twitter and other places, and I recommend one hundred percent checking it out. I’m not sure if I would stretch so far as to believe that an injection of kindness is all our society needs to completely cure and/or prevent mental health problems [Olivia has different opinions on this in the novel] but I think it can significantly help. Even if it is just making people feel more open to talking about their problems, or offering them a hand when they need it.
So yeah, all in all, Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? was pretty damn enjoyable. I feel like it’s one of those books that teens and adults need to read. Overall, I’m giving it an 8/10 stars. I didn’t enjoy it as much as other Holly Bourne books, but I did think the message was incredibly important and that goes a long way to making this book something I will recommend to people in the future.
Thanks so much for reading my review. Has anyone else read this book or wants to read it? Is anyone doing the #KindnessisContagious challenge? Please let me know your thoughts and feelings in the comments section 😀 I always enjoy hearing what you all think of books I’ve read and reviewed.