Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo

April 26, 2013 Reviews 0 ★★★


Blogging Outside the Box is a  feature at Speculating on SpecFic, where books outside the SFF banner are reviewed. It is intended to highlight some of the non speculative fiction titles I am reading and share my thoughts with readers.

  • Date published: 21st May 2012
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin
  • Format: Paperback, 291 pages
  • ISBN 13: 9781741759983
  • Categories: Contemporary YA
  • Goodreads /Booktopia / Bookworld
  • Source: borrowed from the library

Holly Yarkov has a boyfriend who is a gift from the universe. She has a job that fulfils her even as it wears her down. She has a core group of friends from high school. And she has a layer of steel around her heart that is beginning to tarnish. Just as she is reaching for a future she can’t quite see, Holly is borne back into the past by memories of her beloved father, and of the boy-who-might-have-been…

Grief and longing run like veins of quicksilver through this beautiful novel, at once gloriously funny and achingly sad.

Holier Than Thou explores our early twenties: a unique time in our lives where we’re just out of high school and tertiary education, working the first job, living out of home, perhaps for the first time,  maybe exploring our first ‘serious’ relationships. It’s about Holly, who has ticked all those boxes, but is rapidly finding out the idealism we learn in high school and uni just doesn’t apply in the real world.

What happens when you have everything you have ever wanted, but still find yourself unhappy, wanting something new, something extra? Holly has created an identity for herself as the girl who always does right – she’s taken the high moral ground and is prone to judging others for not doing the same – her work-mate Nick gives her the apt nickname Holier Than Thou. She could have easily come across as selfish, perhaps even aloof, but she, and the rest of the cast, are astonishingly realistic and relatable. Of her friends, I really liked Nick, and possibly could have loved Liam if it wasn’t for the way he left. I didn’t like Tim, I thought it was clear he was taking Holly for granted, and with the exception of Dan, the rest of Holly’s friends weren’t as supportive as I would have wanted to be. But this is the point of the book – a realisation that close friends will not always remain so.

The blurb made it sound as though Holly hadn’t been plagued by the death of her father and absence of a close friend for a while, but from the very first page it’s clear that she has been dealing with these issues non-stop for years. She’s obviously never gotten over Liam, the best friend who left for mysterious reasons, and understandably has a complicated emotional history when it comes to the death of her father. Her past is filled out for us slowly, flashbacks interleaved cleverly with the present action of the life she envisioned for herself gradually falling apart. Holly’s close friends expand their social circles, her thankless job as a social worker is sucking the joy out of her and she works long, hard hours without pay and under constant threat of being fired, her relationship with Tim is changing now that they live together and both work full-time, and Nick keeps entering her thoughts in inappropriate ways.

I have to note that I do not like the ending. Holier Than Thou ends abruptly, without really concluding the story arc and leaving me perplexed. I understand the author is probably tying to make a statement about the uncertainty of life, and how Holly has many years ahead of her to figure everything out, but it’s very unsatisfying as a reader.

Holier than Thou will make you laugh, and will possibly have you reaching for tissues! It’s a perfect story about the expectations we have of living as adults in the ‘real world’, with an Australian tang, and will resonate with readers who, like me, are at this special place in their lives.

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