Are You Ready? is Amanda Hearty's debut novel. It tells the story of four friends, Molly, Ben, Sarah and Ali who are moving from their twenties into their thirties and are having to go through changes. Molly has just started a new job, Ben is still living at home and being lazy, Sarah is worried she'll be single forever and Ali is about to get married. We follow each friend as they come through all their troubles and realise their dreams.
I don't really know what I made of Are You Ready?. It was a quick read with incredibly short chapters - 119 in total - yet there were a few things I really hated about it. As I said, the chapters were very easy to read and great for sitting down for five minutes, but I felt we didn't really get to know any of the four friends very well. Just as we were getting to know them, their chapter was over and we were on to the next friend.
With four main charcters plus all their family and friends it was quite irritating having to go back to a few chapters beforehand to remember who was with who and who their parents were etc.
It also felt like there wasn't really a plot to the novel. Sure each friend had their difficulties but they were all sub-plots rather than a main plot. So the whole book was multiple sub-plots which was, agian, something you had to keep up with.
While not being a huge grammar-nazi, even I found the lack of contractions irritating. It is rather than it's, we are not rather than we're not/we aren't. It was as if the author was typing it all out as if she was talking to a small child - it came across very patronising. I found that very difficult to follow and found myself reading a sentence before re-reading it the way it should have been written. There also seemed to be excessive use of exclamations marks but that's easily ignored.
I can't even really explain which characters I liked and disliked because of the lack of substance to each character. However I will say I enjoyed reading Molly's chapters of the story, that I found Sarah a tad desperate - just because you're thirty doesn't mean you're on the shelf for life! - and I found Ben incredibly lazy but liked that he changed eventually. Ali seemed nice but as I've said there wasn't really much substance to the characters.
I seem to be pointing out all of the bad things in the book and you might be thinking: well why rate it 3/5 - well, while a lot of things annoyed me, I did read it extremely quickly and did find it quite absorbing. Not so absorbing that I couldn't put it down but absorbing enough that I didn't want to throw it out the window! It was an enjoyable enough read but only so-so and that's why it's 3/5.
Overall it's not one of the more impressive debut novels I've read. Nor, to be honest, is the writing up to the usual standard of Irish writing we're used to - Cathy Kelly, Marian Keyes, Melissa Hill, Sheila O'Flangan to name a few - but if you can get past the irritating grammatical errors you might just find an enjoyable enough read.
The fact that Amanda could juggle four characters and all of their family says that she isn't that bad a writer and I certainly look forward to her next novel Positively Yours.