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By Holly Bourne

An important, heart-wrenching novel full of up and downs. Bourne's writing uses wit, honesty and love to illustrate sexual trauma and the long road of recovery. An unforgettable novel.

Book Review. No spoilers I swear!!!

Published: Hodder & Stoughton 2020 (Hardback & ebook)

WARNING: The following book review will include references to/scenes of sexual abuse.

This book is honestly one of the best books I've read. It's up there with Jojo Moyes The Giver of Stars. Its heart breaking, raw, witty and is a book every woman can connect with. Its astonishing, a book of our time.

Before I tell you more on my thoughts, here's what it is about....


He said he was looking for a 'partner in crime' which everyone knows is shorthand for 'a woman who isn't real'.

April is kind, pretty, and relatively normal - yet she can't seem to get past date five. Every time she thinks she's found someone to trust, they reveal themselves to be awful, leaving her heartbroken. And angry.

If only April could be more like Gretel.

Gretel is exactly what men want - she's a Regular Everyday Manic Pixie Dream Girl Next Door With No Problems.

The problem is, Gretel isn't real. And April is now claiming to be her.

As soon as April starts 'being' Gretel, dating becomes much more fun - especially once she reels in the unsuspecting Joshua.

Finally, April is the one in control, but can she control her own feelings? And as she and Joshua grow closer, how long will she be able to keep pretending?


A strong , powerful and honest book. This is definitely a book for the modern woman, not only is it important, its also insightful into what sexual abuse does to a person and how damaging it is.

I've seen this novel a lot and after reading reviews I felt like this was a book I really needed to read for myself. I love books that are honest and don't shy away from the tricky, uncomfortable subjects that most people would rather stay away from. It is a book that covers sexual abuse, so beware, it may contain triggers for some readers, in that case, this book may not be for you, and that's ok.

April is a kind, gentle woman whose job puts other women before her, helping them with advice and guidance on abusive relationships and assaults. Being someone who was a abused by her ex, its fair to say that April's work takes a toil on her. Having been treat badly by men since the attack, April is pissed off. In her mind, men don't want to hear about her trauma, they just one thing and thats sex, they're not interested in a real relationship, with a real woman, they want physical, not emotional.

So pretending to be someone else may seem 'crazy' but after reading her trauma, I can't really blame her. In pretending to be Gretel, a fearless, confident woman who is in control and is the heart-breaker when it comes to relationships, April finally feels safe and in control.

Becoming Gretel to April is like applying your lipstick, she wears Gretel on her dates with the unsuspecting Joshua. Being the woman she thinks he wants, April finally feels strong and powerful, except Josh isn't like the others. He's kind, attentive, supportive and loving, but April is still recovering, so in her mind Josh is just like the men she's dated in the past, he doesn't care and she certainly cannot trust him nor can she love him. Gretel doesn't fall in love.

April's voice throughout this book is honest beyond strong. It rings true and says all the things we as women are sometimes too afraid to say. Shedding a light on rape and breaking down the stereotypes and stigma with it as well as the difference between sex and rape in a relationship. This book is the rawest piece of writing I have read, I laughed, cried, and I loved this book, loved how it made me think, how it made me see life as a woman from a different side.

Although this book is about a woman and can come across as a 'man hating book' I encourage men to read it as well, everybody really. It shows you what it's like to be a woman in the modern world, how it feels to be afraid of men and the power they hold.

I was talking to my brother and dad about this book and asked them that as a woman I could be walking down the street and see a man behind me, he could be the nicest guy, but the fact that he is a man and I am a short woman, he already has a power, he has the ability to hurt me if he wanted to. That's a scary thought in itself. These are the type of thoughts April has.

April's journey throughout this book is bittersweet, painful, sad, funny and her character is far from perfect, yet it is her character that allows her to be relatable to so many women. Bourne has given a voice to the women like April, all women and has done it in a way that is personal and unique, this book is a must-read.

I encourage you to read this, it's an amazing book that can be hard to read at times, but it is a book that is so needed. I will not forget this book anytime soon.

Rating: 5* out of 5.

Till next time,

Phoebe x

Pretending is available to buy from Amazon in both ebook, audio and hardback.

Available to buy in paperback 4th February 2021.

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