Book Review: The Shelf, by Helly Acton

Amy Wright is lying in bed, staring at herself in the mirror on the wall and counting her chins. Her long dark hair is curled up on top of her head like the chocolate doughnut she ate in secret yesterday and, if she squints, she could be a sumo wrestler. But Amy isn’t going to let a Fat Day spoil her mood. Not today. Instead, she blinks… and takes a mental snapshot of the best day of her life.

What Amy doesn’t realise is that the best day of her life will turn out to be the worst.

The Shelf

Amy is about to dumped on television by her (soon to be ex) boyfriend, Jamie. This is the man she thinks is about to whisk her off on a romantic holiday to propose, but who is actually taking her to a studio where the audience is ready and waiting. He has signed her up to The Shelf, a new TV show where the contestants will live in a house under 24-hour surveillance and compete to win a prize of one million pounds. Only in this show, the winner will also be given the title of ‘The Keeper’ by competing in challenges which demonstrate that they are willing to change their old ways in order to be better girlfriends and, one day, wives.

Each of the contestants is labelled by the ex-partner who has signed them up to the show and lied to get them there: Amy is labelled as desperate by Jamie. Lauren is easy, Jackie is selfish. Kathy is bitter, Hattie is labelled boring, and Gemma is distant. From the start, the show is humiliating and obnoxious in how it portrays the women to the public. But what the show creators don’t realise is how quickly the strong bonds between the women will form and it will underestimate just how the show will change them all for the better.

I enjoyed this book from start to finish. It’s very funny (it’s nominated for this years’ Comedy Women in Print Prize) but it also portrays with incredible, and sometimes heart-wrenching, accuracy the things women will put themselves through because of the self-belief that they are not good enough.

 ‘I’m thinking I want to have it all. But I know that having it all is impossible. I want to settle down, but I also want to travel. I want children, but I also want my freedom. The truth is, when I see babies, I don’t feel broody – I feel anxious. they are like little anchors. But I shouldn’t feel like that at my age, should I? how can I want a home and want to sleep in a tent on the edge of ravine? It’s like I’m two Amys. I have one foot on the plane and one foot on the runway, and I can’t work out what will fulfil me more…’

The Shelf

The men are predominantly awful and this book is for anyone who has ever ignored the red flags and continued to date someone knowing that it will ultimately end in disaster. It’s a fab book about finding the strength to write your own story and letting go of the pressure of thinking you have to walk down a certain path. It is about discovering what you want your life to be.

The Shelf would probably be best read on a plane to Thailand: book in one hand and a one-way ticket in the other.

Published by luggageandscribble

Oh hey, just a girl who loves reading.

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