How Do You Like Me Now?
Sometimes a book comes along right at the most optimal time and you sit there reading it whilst your head says, ‘This could be about my life, this could be about my friends. Wait, is this about me!? No, definitely about my friends...or maybe my life?’ That is exactly what happened when I read Holly Bourne’s How Do You Like Me Now?, which explores what it’s like to be a late 20s/30-something-year-old in an age of social media.
It had been a week full of engagement announcements, baby gender reveals, and look-at-my-lush-life posts on my Facebook feed. Not from me, I might add. I had just moved countries, which I realize is also a big life-changing moment, but I was purposefully posting seldomly about it. After a week of seeing how great people’s lives were compared to mine, I needed a book to escape into. Enter Tori Bailey, our leading lady in How Do You Like Me Now? and a story that was so relatable it felt like Holly Bourne had written it specifically for me and my friends.
Tori Bailey is a 30-something-year-old who wrote a very successful self-help memoir a few years ago. It shot her straight into the limelight and garnered her many fans. She posts effortlessly on social media about the parties she attends, how great life is, and how happy she is – but it is all a lie. Tori is unhappy. Her boyfriend won’t talk about marriage, she can’t think of anything else to write about, and everyone around her is getting engaged or pregnant. She feels stagnant but she has it all, so why isn’t she happy?
How Do You Like Me Now? is a book about relationships and self-discovery. Full warning, Tori isn’t the most loveable character. I found her quite grating to begin with, but as she starts to question her own choices and happiness, she becomes more relatable, or maybe I just began to understand her actions more. I am loath to tell you more about this side of the story as I think adding my thoughts to this might ruin your reading of the book. I will say that my colleague gave this book to her friend and reading it caused her to break up with her long-term boyfriend. It’s powerful writing; Bourne used humor in her left hand to distract me and then sucker-punched me with the truth that she’d been hiding in her right hand. Her writing hits all the right spots and is the first thing that appears to have captured fans.
The part of the book that really resonated with me was Tori’s obsession with posting the perfect picture online and documenting her life like everything was okay; it really hit me like a ton of bricks. The more I think about it, the more it made me look closer at my own social media use and that of my friends. It solidified the thought that being this ‘connected’ has caused a lot of people a lot of mental hardship and has caused us to compare ourselves to everyone and dream of the unattainable, causing our own unhappiness.
When all you see of people’s lives is the best moments, how can you not sit and compare yourself to them and think: ‘Look at how happy they are. I’m not that happy. So, what on earth am I doing wrong?’ One of the things that most confuses me about social media is when people who I know are upset or unhappy post smiling pictures and tag them with #sohappyrightnow #blessed and so on. It’s all fake, a lie even, and I know this but then I see the picture and think, maybe they’re okay now? But this is exactly how Tori lives her life, and it broke my heart.
How Do You Like Me Now? really was an eye-opening book which has stayed with me for months. It was not what I expected to get from a book from an author whose previous works were all YA. Holly Bourne writes with great humor and tact, but this made the deeper message hit even harder. She tricked me with her jokes; I felt safe in Tori’s company at first and then *bang* I learned it was all a lie, *bang* she makes a terrible decision, and *bang* her life goes up in smoke. Bourne isn’t afraid to swear or talk about sex, and she describes Tori and her boyfriend’s relationship so perfectly (and painfully) that I couldn’t help but compare and contrast my own relationship and those of my friends. Bourne’s first foray into adult writing is a triumph, and I will be first in line for the next one.