Mini Reviews: Normal People, So Happy It Hurts & The Quiet at the End of the World

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Who hasn’t heard of Normal People?! It has been nominated for, or won, every award going, and everyone has been talking about it.

Connell and Marianne grew up in the same small town in Ireland, but they see the world in different ways – Marianne is rich, and emotionally abused by her family, who employ Connell’s mother. Connell is poor, and one of the most popular, likeable people at school, and is super smart. And they fall in love.

Normal People follows the two through adolescence and early adulthood, as they drop in and out of each other’s lives, trying to communicate, but never really managing it. It’s a sad love story. I became completely wrapped up in Marianne and Connell’s lives, relating to both the joys and loneliness that can accompany growing up in the 21st century.

But I can’t help but think… two young people who meet at school and fall in love. It’s a YA story, it’s just not written like most YA. It does make me sad that young adult fiction never receives as much acclaim and attention as Normal People. But this doesn’t mean that I won’t be reading Conversations With Friends!

So Happy It Hurts by Anneliese Mackintosh

So Happy It Hurts crept up on me unexpectedly. I came across it in Foyles Waterloo when it was their book of the month. I was approaching 30 and the back said, “Ottila McGregor is thirty years old and has decided it’s time to sort her life out.” It sounded perfect for me and I wanted to buy myself a little treat, so I did.

I loved So Happy It Hurts so much. It’s told in alternating chapters between Ottila and Thales, a man at work that she begins dating. It’s an epistolary novel; a scrapbook of emails, receipts, tickets, letters, Snapchats, texts, therapy transcripts… Through these, we see Ottila’s relationship with Thales grow and watch as she deals with her sister Mina’s bad mental health (which Ottila thinks is her fault). Ottila is struggling with her own mental heath due to the fractured relationship with her family – and her father’s death not so long ago – but she doesn’t actually talk about her own mental health much; we learn about it through other little snapshots into her life.

So Happy It Hurts is told in a light-hearted way – and is very funny – but focuses on the serious side of life, too, alongside the little things that make us happy. It’s actually very uplifting, I promise, and was one of the few books to actually make me cry…

‘I want to be a good person. And I want to be happy. So happy it hurts. I need you to help me with that.’

The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James

Aren’t Lauren James’s books just so pretty? The Quiet at the End of the World was one of the books on my ‘to buy’ list this year. I really look forward to her science fiction, especially knowing that she’s so passionate about women in science!

Lowrie and Shen are officially the youngest people on Earth after a virus caused global infertility. The two teenagers are content with their idyllic lives – growing up in an opulent mansion in a pocket of London, looked after by a small, ageing community – until Lowrie comes across social media posts written by a girl who was a teenager when the virus hit. She begins reading, and learning more, about what changed humanity forever – and uncovers a secret that threatens the entire existence of those left behind.

The Quiet at the End of the World is, actually, a quiet read. Lauren James’s books never force lots of complicated scientific theories onto you, they’re simply about the day-to-day lives of her protagonists. Lowrie and Shen are a really sweet couple. I went back-and-forth between wanting them to be the best of friends, and wanting them to fall in love, and it was lovely watching their relationship grow stronger and stronger. As with all of Lauren’s stories, a devastating secret awaits, but it isn’t the twist that keeps you reading, it’s experiencing the world and enjoying the company of the characters she has created. I particularly adored Mitch, a cute robot who I wish was a friend of mine!

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2 thoughts on “Mini Reviews: Normal People, So Happy It Hurts & The Quiet at the End of the World

  1. Normal People made me feel very blue. Such hopelessness I felt on every page.

  2. Good to hear about these books, especially “The Quiet at the End of the World”. I’ve been wanting to read it but I wasn’t sure if I’d like it ha-ha!

    Great post 🙂

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