I received an ARC of this book via Bonnier Books UK (Zaffre) and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Everyone in Amy’s life seems to be getting married (or so Instagram tells her), and she feels like she’s falling behind.
So, when her boyfriend surprises her with a dream holiday to a mystery destination, she thinks this is it – he’s going to finally pop the Big Question. But the dream turns into a nightmare when she finds herself on the set of a Big Brother-style reality television show, The Shelf.
Along with five other women, Amy is dumped live on TV and must compete in a series of humiliating and obnoxious tasks in the hope of being crowned ‘The Keeper’. Will Amy’s time on the show make her realise there are worse things in life than being left on the shelf?
Though I’m only 22, my social media (at least the non blog related social media) is full of people settling down, getting engaged and starting (or adding to) a family and – as much as I try not to be bothered by it – I can’t help but feel like I’m behind everyone. The main character of Helly Acton’s The Shelf feels the same and then – just as she thinks she might be heading down the aisle – things take a strange, but entertaining turn.
Even though they are incredibly problematic, and I’d much rather watch something on Disney+, there’s no denying that reality TV is an interesting form of escapism. The reality TV format made an equally interesting premise for a book, in the form of a Big Brother-Love Island hybrid show called – what do you reckon ? – The Shelf! Amy starts the book thinking her boyfriend, Jamie (I couldn’t get over the fact their names rhymed), will ask her the Big Question but – as the show goes on – the book asks important questions about gender, relationships and what makes the perfect partner.
I’m glad that the book wasn’t just focused on the reality TV aspect. Though there were tasks, dramas and traditional reality TV cliches throughout, Amy and the other female character’s time on the show opens up very real debates and questions that were funny but they definitely had me a bit angry at times.
The book doesn’t just follow Amy but five other women who are exciting, captivating and all carrying their own baggage. I liked that Acton didn’t just make several other carbon copies of Amy – each character had their quirks, their flaws and their own voices which was refreshing to read.
Though I enjoyed the book, I felt like my interest waned towards the end. The ending wasn’t unexpected (I definitely had a feeling it’d end in a similar way), but I just didn’t feel as satisfied as I thought I would.
Even so, The Shelf is an enjoyable, easy read – perfect if we get a summer holiday this year (I’m crossing my fingers!).
The Shelf will be published on 9th July 2020.
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