At a glance

  • A punchy book about the challenges faced by young people
  • A candid look at ‘romantic’ relationships and their impact on psychosocial development and mental health during adolescence
  • Written by a youth fiction star
  • Exciting lesson plans are available to accompany the book

There are lots of places where it can easily be tempting to have a good blub in public, but not all of us will give in to the urge, let alone talk about it afterwards.

Amelie, however, is an exception. She’s wept in Clapham Junction waiting room, the music classroom, the bench on top of the common and plenty more places besides. And what has been the reason for her tears?

As it turns out, they are the result of a radioactive relationship full of thorns and punctured dreams.

The Places I’ve Cried in Public tells the story of Amelie’s less than perfect relationship with Reese, her smooth-talking inconsistent boyfriend who builds her up and then deconstructs her into a thousand pieces leaving her feeling needy, desperate and odd.

Afterwards, puzzled Amelie decides to revisit all the places she cried when with Reese and in the process of doing so, and replaying events with the benefit of hindsight, begins to realise that consistency is a highly underrated love trait, especially when compared to lying, cheating and the trauma of abuse.

This moving book, published by Usborne, frankly explores what love is and, crucially, what it isn’t. It’s written by Holly Bourne, a bestselling author, relationship advisor and passionate mental health advocate.

She has a clever author voice and is able to speak to teenagers in their language, creating credible characters with whom young people can genuinely identify.

The book clearly demonstrates that falling in love isn’t all roses and candlelight; and also, how some teenagers have worryingly high levels of acceptance of abuse within relationships – often finding themselves justifying the abuse through the actions of the victim.

This book really needs plugging into the teenage mental health system to teach young adults about choices and consequences, poisonous power play and abusive relationships.

It questions romantic love as a recipe for happiness and explores the many shapes and forms love can take and what coping strategies we can use when things go pear-shaped.

It also proves why Bourne is head and shoulders above her contemporaries in the teens/YA genre; she unpicks what matters, gets to the nitty-gritty of real-life issues, and above all, empathises without judgment.

A KS4 RSE pack is available to accompany the book, containing four strong lesson plans which consider key topics of gaslighting, sexual relationships, love and friendship.

These useful springboards for debate and learning contain short, relevant extracts from the book along with a selection of thought-provoking discussion questions and flexible activities that include roleplay, vlogging, mind-maps and memory maps.

Overall, it’s a powerful package.


Verdict

  • A young adult book with grief, guts and glory
  • Encourages students to focus on their wellbeing and find their own compassionate voice
  • A book to empower, embolden and energise
  • Helps students think about expectations, ‘fate’ and the signs of an unhealthy relationship
  • Provides a platform for talking honestly about mental health and abusive relationships

Upgrade if…

You are looking for a piece of honest, no-nonsense teen literature that will empower students, make them feel like they are not alone and help them make healthy, confident decisions.

Find out more about the book here and follow Holly on Twitter at @holly_bourneYA.


Reviewed by John Dabell