One of the best things aboutNetGalley is getting early access to books I definitely would have read anyway. Almost Love is one of those books. Asking For It is a book I think every teenager in Ireland should read, and most adults in Ireland as well. I never hesitate to recommend it, because it’s written so incisively. Emma is such a horrible person, but written so well.
So when Louise O’Neill announced she was writing a book about obsessive love, this time geared more towards adults, there was never a doubt that I was going to read it. Quercus, the publisher, granted a few wishes for it on NetGalley yesterday, and I was one of the lucky grantees. I sat down and read it basically immediately, such was my excitement for it.
If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not love: the gripping new novel from the bestselling author of Asking for It. Perfect for fans of Marian Keyes and Jodi Picoult.
When Sarah falls for Matthew, she falls hard.
So it doesn’t matter that he’s twenty years older. That he sees her only in secret. That, slowly but surely, she’s sacrificing everything else in her life to be with him.
Sarah’s friends are worried. Her father can’t understand how she could allow herself to be used like this. And she’s on the verge of losing her job.
But Sarah can’t help it. She is addicted to being desired by Matthew.
And love is supposed to hurt.
Like both of her YA books, this isn’t exactly a warm and fuzzy read. Sarah, the main character, isn’t the most likeable person, and she clearly doesn’t make good decisions. She doesn’t listen to her friends, and she’s selfish in how she acts. She’s thoughtless and self-centred, and most of the time while I was reading this, I wanted to shake her silly and tell her to just cop herself on.
But the really great thing about Louise O’Neill is that she manages to write books which are so compelling, even with a main character who is so distinctly dislikeable. Sarah is never one-dimesional, never simple, and even if I hate her and the way she acts, I can really understand why she acts the way she does.
Her obsessive, damaging love for Matthew and their not-relationship is drawn in a way which shows exactly how she got drawn into a situation which was so clearly bad for her, and why she found it so hard to break away. I have a slightly similar experience of aspects of her non-relationship with Matthew – although not half as bad – and everything O’Neill writes is so very real, it’s hard to look away from.
This car-crash book of a naive young woman who lets herself get drawn into a situation which is so damaging to her and her self-esteem is compulsively readable, and I stayed up far too late finishing it. As ever, O’Neill has produced a work which is bold, acerbic, and very easy to recommend.
Almost Love is published on March 1st by riverrun books.