If you’ve not heard of Lucy Powrie or The Paper and Hearts Society, then either you’re new to the YA bookish community (welcome!) or you’ve been living under a rock (which must be very uncomfortable). Lucy is someone I followed in my early days as a blogger, when I joined in with the hugely popular UKYA Chat. She also has a blog and YouTube channel, and is now a published author! I have been excited for this debut since it was first announced, and it does not disappoint.
Tabby Brown is basically me as a teenager: she’d rather stay home with a good book than go to a party (oh wait, that’s still me now). She doesn’t have friends, she hasn’t found her people yet. At the start of this book, she’s getting ready to move house. It’s a big deal: she’ll be living somewhere new and going to a new school, which is terrifying for her, but she also sees it as a chance to make a fresh start and leave some very unpleasant things behind her.
When she borrows her favourite book from the library she finds a flyer inside for a book club, and much cajoling from her Gran persuades her to give it a go. Tabby’s Gran was one of my favourite characters in this book. She has a great life and is very perceptive about what’s going on with Tabby, even when Tabby doesn’t want to tell her. She is Tabby’s cheerleader and is always trying to help her to live her best life. We all need a person like that in our world.
Encouraged (or forced) by Gran, Tabby shows to the first meeting of this book club to find it’s her and a well-established group of friends, which is just about everyone’s idea of hell, right? But Tabby resolves to make a go of it. The book group is led by Olivia, who has roped her friends into it, whether they want to be there or not. Olivia is bossy, obsessed with organisation and she wants to get things done. Sometimes I wanted to yell at her to calm down, but her idea is a great one. A book group like this with Austen themed dance parties and an epic road trip is exactly what my teenage bookish heart needed. Hell, I’d sign up to that book club now.
The boys of the group, Henry and Ed, are pretty easy going. They’re welcoming to Tabby, not overpowering, and definitely interesting. Cassie, the other girl of the group is standoffish. It takes a while to get to know her. She doesn’t open up easily, she is keeping her personal issues close to her heart and she doesn’t appreciate the new addition to her group. She is suspicious of Tabby; sometimes she is cruel, sometimes snarky, but other times she is so vulnerable I just wanted to hug her. Cassie makes it clear that this book group isn’t top of her favourite things to be doing:
“You know I only came for you, Livs… I’ve got better things to be doing. I’ve got no interest in making new friends or living the “best bookish life ever” when I’m perfectly happy with the friends I’ve got.”
At this point I swore aloud. Who doesn’t want to be living their best bookish life? What is wrong with this girl? Why does Olivia put up with her? So many questions. Lucy answers them all for us in a brilliantly paced book, where secrets are revealed as the group grow in closeness. I couldn’t put it down.
I also loved the way that social media is used in the book. We see the positive sides of it in the group chats and the shared photos of their fun, we see negatives in the form of cyber bullying, and Lucy also addresses the important issue of our online lives not necessarily reflecting our real selves. This was one of my favourite things about The Paper and Hearts Society.
At times, it was obvious how things were going to progress (why Tabby? WHY?), but the way Lucy got to that point was brilliant and gripping. I enjoyed seeing how Tabby’s situation unravelled (although that was painful at times), and I loved the way friendship was addressed. Teenage friendships are hard and intense, the pain of someone you thought was a friend betraying you is overwhelming, and the joy of finally finding your people is everything: Lucy has perfectly captured all of these feelings. She is definitely an author to watch.
The Paper and Hearts Society is an outstanding debut novel, I adored it and I cannot wait to see where this series is going next.