‘Reese made me feel like I was wearing chainmail and he was a giant sexy magnet.’ Oh, the fizzing chemical wonder of romantic attraction. For aspiring singer/songwriter, Amelie, being with Reese is intoxicating. He’s cool, charismatic, and the lead singer of a band, their connection one of musical as well as sexual passion. It looks a lot like love. Except surely real love shouldn’t hurt like this. The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne explores the devastating emotional fallout from a mentally abusive relationship.
Amelie begins her story at 2.30am on a freezing cold bench, the bench where she first cried over Reese, and the starting point of a memory map that will see her physically retrace every place she ever wept over him, including the happy tears. From graffitied provincial bench to climactic trip to London, this is clearly psychogeography as therapy.
As Amelie contemplates her time with Reese, the red flags seem obvious in hindsight, and she recalls the words of a friend, ‘You’re kind of disappearing into him, Amelie.’
Readers on the hunt for clues will soon compile a long list of Reese’s misdemeanours, including emotional manipulation, regular undermining, gaslighting and worse. When later, Amelie says to her counsellor, ‘But he never hit me,’ the naivety of her words is keenly affecting.
Amelie’s unravelling is brilliantly portrayed in this BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick. As one of our foremost YA writers, Holly Bourne has a particular interest in mental health issues, and here she starts a welcome conversation on coercive controlling relationships and how to spot the signs. I recall no books on this subject when I was a teenager, contemporary YA writers really are busting all the taboos and we owe them our gratitude. Occasionally harrowing but always illuminating and empathetic, this is an empowering read for teenagers.
Suitable for older teens.
The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne is published by Usbourne Publishing, 368 pages.
Interested in other books by Holly Bourne? Click here.