Contains potential spoilers for Heartstopper Vol. 1-4 and This Winter
TW: depression, self harm, suicidal thoughts
Note: I believe that Oseman is releasing a newly edited version of Solitaire, so I’m not sure what changes there will be compared to the edition that I read.
As the school year begins, a blog called Solitaire makes itself known to Higg’s School. Tori Spring discovers one of their early messages in a classroom, but Tori doesn’t want to get involved, she just wants to blog and to sleep. Fellow student, Michael Holden, is intrigued by Solitaire and wants to find out who they are and what they will do next. But Tori does not care about Solitaire, or Michael…or does she?
Solitaire is the first book by Alice Oseman that was published, and is part of the Heartstopper / Solitaire universe. This means that some readers may be familiar with some of the characters in this novel, such as Nick and Charlie. This was the case for me, so I was already immersed in the Osemanverse. That said, please be aware that Solitaire is darker and potentially more challenging to read than the Heartstopper series.
What makes this novel interesting, but also a very challenging read, is that the narrator, Tori Spring, is an unreliable narrator. Being in Tori’s mind means that we can only see things that she sees, and only as she views them. Therefore, when it comes to the topic of Tori’s mental health, narration from Tori’s perspective means that we are reading her experience, which can be difficult, but are not given much explanation (because Tori does not understand herself). Although I found this challenging to read, it was also interesting because some people do not understand their mental health right away, and that is why education on the topic is important. Before reading this novel, please do be aware that the narration can be challenging to read.
The plot itself did have intrigue, I did want to keep reading, and I liked a couple of the characters. At times it was hard to tell if the way I was viewing the book was because of the plot and characters themselves, or because of Tori’s narration and her own feelings. Despite this, I did find the narrative moving and emotional towards the end, and because we are in Tori’s mind I did feel connected to her and wanted to follow her story.
With previous books in this universe, I have liked seeing the relationship between the Spring siblings, and this novel had that too. Issues faced by Charlie are discussed in the novel, and we see how that impacts Tori, but also how much Tori loves and cares for Charlie.
The ending of the novel does not wrap everything up, which disappointed me in some ways as I feel I would like to see the next part of Tori’s story, especially having followed this narrative with her. It did feel like a cult teen film though, which was a clever feeling to create for the ending.
Overall, understanding Tori’s story has added to the Heartstopper / Solitaire universe for me. Although this novel was a challenging and dark read, the concept is interesting and made me think. If you do want to read this novel, I would highly suggest reading the content warnings on Oseman’s website and being aware that this is not a light read to undertake.