Release Date: May 1st 2012
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Fishpond | Booktopia | The Nile
Holly Yarkov has a boyfriend who is a gift from the universe. She has a job that fulfils her even as it wears her down. She has a dangerously appealing co-worker, who literally plays with fire. And she has a layer of steel around her heart that is beginning to tarnish.
Just as she is reaching for a future she can't quite see, Holly finds her present invaded by the past, by memories of her father's death and of her once best friend, the boy-who-never-was.
Grief and longing run like veins of quicksilver through this beautiful novel, at once gloriously funny and achingly sad.
Having fallen in love with Laura's debut novel, Good Oil, I've been eagerly anticipating word on another book (or sequel!!!). So when I first heard of Holier Than Thou, I was bouncing. in. delight. And I'm so excited to say, Laura once again does NOT disappoint! While our main character, Holly Yarkov, is a 24 year old social worker, Holier Than Thou can easily slip into the older YA market, while still firmly securing a spot amongst New Adult titles. I think older teens can relate to Holly because she's still trying to find where she fits into the vast jigsaw of life. She clings onto the past, onto the familiar, in fear of losing it. She's afraid of change, afraid of becoming something outside of her own firm idea of who she thinks she should be. But no matter how strong her grip, she can't keep things in perfect alignment. I think that's something we can all relate to, all struggle with at some point in our lives. It's hard to look at Holly and not find a part of yourself staring back at you. Whether it's her empathy, her humour, her strength or in the people and relationships she's encountered. Laura Buzo excels at crafting an amazingly flawed, lovable, believable protagonist.
Each turn of the page is a beautiful thing to witness, because the changes in Holly are so distinct as she evolves. She's growing up and so is everyone else around her. Her once inseparable group of High School friends are becoming increasingly more difficult to bring together, each branching off into a new direction. New jobs, new friends, new schedules. I think everyone over high school age can relate to that, and all those nearing that life-changing moment, fear it. As the past rears it's head, we see how the tragic death of Holly's father has shaped her into woman she is today and how the boy from her teens - who never was, who might have been, who could have been, who just disappeared from her life and never returned - still plays heavily on her mind and heart. Each thread of Holly's life is weaved, snipped and retied with such a caring hand, it's impossible to remain untouched by her journey.
More often that not, what I see explored in the books I read is the beginning of love, all bright and sparkly with new-couple shine. Holly's been with Tim for a few years now and some of that shine has faded. It's still strong with love and affection, but their life is settling into a monotony. They're not always as open with one another, nor are they sharing the same deep and exciting conversations. You see how it weighs on Holly, how it subconsciously pushes her to pay more attention to other areas in her life. Or other people. Nick. Funny, inspiring, charming Nick. Her constant companion at work, who understands the daily demands and emotional impact of their job. Nick, who may not be perfect, with his own messed up life hiding behind closed doors. Nick, who Holly is realising she'd be lost without. I loved how their relationship was so easy - the banter, the affection, how they knew what to say and when. You grow to suspect that Nick has feelings for her, but she's either oblivious or just not willing to acknowledge them at first. What they have is a strong friendship and it was both beautiful and heartbreaking to see potential for something more, given everything that stands between them. Realisations are made, as are choices, some frustratingly stupid, others more admirable, but each I felt to be a true reflection of the characters.
Holier Than Thou is a messy web of beautiful chaos. It's life. Perfect in it's ability to frustrate the hell out of you, make you smile, make you cry and twist your heart in pain and pleasure. Life is a constant state of motion, nobody has a 'happily ever after' because tomorrow is never certain, only in it's promise of eternal change. That's why I love how Laura ends this book. Was I left shaking my head in denial? Yes. Was I left frantically checking to see if my copy was missing pages? YES. But it felt real, it left me wondering. There is never a final dot point in life, not until you die, and I thought this was demonstrated really well. Even if I do still feel an ache in my heart, a desperate need to know MORE.
Holier Than Thou is a hilarious, poignant, inspiring snapshot of life, written by a rising Australian talent that everyone ought to clear a space for in their bookshelves!