Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Review: You Don't Have to Say You Love Me - Sarra Manning

Sweet, bookish Neve Slater always plays by the rules. And the number one rule is that good-natured fat girls like her don't get guys like gorgeous, handsome William, heir to Neve's heart since university. But William's been in LA for three years, and Neve's been slimming down and re-inventing herself so that when he returns, he'll fall head over heels in love with the new, improved her.
So she's not that interested in other men. Until her sister Celia points out that if Neve wants William to think she's an experienced love-goddess and not the fumbling, awkward girl he left behind, then she'd better get some, well, experience.What Neve needs is someone to show her the ropes, someone like Celia's colleague Max. Wicked, shallow, sexy Max. And since he's such a man-slut, and so not Neve's type, she certainly won't fall for him. Because William is the man for her... right?Somewhere between losing weight and losing her inhibitions, Neve's lost her heart - but to who?

A few weeks ago I reviewed my first ever Manning novel It Felt Like a Kiss and since then I have been predictably squeezing in a few of her older reads in between everything else that has been languishing on my TBR pile. It has to be said that You Don't Have to Say You Love Me could have over taken It Felt Like a Kiss as my favourite Manning novel to date.

It seems that there are always going to be quite a few books drifting about that really try to tackle the dreaded weight issue and for me You Don't Have to Say You Love Me is the latest in a long line of many that I've read. Fortunately, I think that Manning has written one of the best on the subject yet.

Manning does not tackle the issue of weight-loss lightly, giving the issue the attention and space that it deserves.  Neve's weight-loss battle, constant and on-going struggle with her self-control, self-esteem and confidence is not merely utilised as a quick makeover plot ploy nor is it resolved unrealistically and nice and neatly at the end of the novel. It is real and it is ugly and it is exceptionally well done. Neve's curious mix of naivet√© and pessimism is all too accurate and her world view is altogether that little bit too familiar for anyone who's ever struggled with their body image.

Neve's "pancake relationship" with Max is a wonderful twist on one of my favourite tropes - the pretend relationship - and their companionship and blossoming friendship is wonderful to read, and it's great to see the romance inevitably creep up over them. My only qualm would be that whilst we get flashes of true emotion from Max throughout the novel (that are sure to make your heart skip) we never really understand him all that well as a character, despite some later revelations that show us that he is clearly as troubled as Neve. I would have enjoyed just a little more illumination into his thoughts and motivations, but then we can't have everything can we?

Arguably a little darker than most, although still rife with humour, You Don't Have to Say You Love Me is a great read about two damaged and uncertain people finding one another and has rocketed its way onto my favourite reads list.

I've also been reading through Sarra Manning's blog this last few weeks and it's as throughly enjoyable and thought provoking as her novels, I'd definitely recommend giving it a wee gander when you have a chance.

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