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== About the book ==
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me is a contemporary adult novel by Sarra Manning. The book was published by Corgi on 3rd February 2011 and it is 560 pages long.
== Synopsis ==
Since university, Neve Slater has been in love with William. But, William is in LA and Neve has next to no self-esteem. As a larger lady she believes that she could never get a guy like William so she's spent the last three years slimming down and changing herself. Now she's changed, she can't wait for the day that William returns and falls madly in love with her. Only problem is, she's never had a boyfriend and needs to learn about having one... fast.
Neve needs someone to show her what being in a relationship is all about and she needs some experience with men in general. Max is a well-known player from Neve's sister's office and he's sexy as hell. Neve knows that she could never fall in love with someone like Max so he should be the perfect person to show her what to do with a man!
== What I thought ==
Sarra Manning, one of my favourite authors of young adult fiction also writes adult novels although I have never really gotten into them until recently.
At the beginning of the book, Neve is getting herself ready for distant love William's return to the UK. He's been off in LA for the past three years and she's been spending that time reinventing herself by slimming down so that he will fall in love with her. Poor Neve has never really had any confidence due to being overweight for the most of her life so she hasn't gone out there and had any experience with men. I instantly loved Neve. I'm not the slimmest of women and I could connect with her immediately. There have been times where I haven't felt the most attractive and I have put myself down a lot in the past.
Neve constantly put herself down throughout the whole book and by the way she spoke about herself, you would have thought that she was massive. Maybe she had been at one point but she also works with a personal trainer the whole time and is extremely careful about what she eats. It turns out that Neve is actually a smaller size than she thinks of herself as and this also shows how much pressure society can put on someone. Neve saw herself as something completely different than how other people saw her.
Just like Neve, I also loved the whole premise of the story. Neve needs a man to show her certain things and for her to practise on. Max is someone Neve meets through her sister Celia at a work party. He's incredibly good looking and he knows it but he shows an interest in Neve and they end up going home together. However, this really doesn't work out as he had planned and Neve feels so embarrassed. As she tries to apologise, and explains her situation with William, Max becomes even more interested and offers to become her 'pancake boyfriend' (you'll have to read the book to find out what that means).
As the two get to know each other better, the book just gets funnier and funnier. Max lives a completely different lifestyle to Neve and this introduces her to a whole new way of living. Max takes her out to swanky parties and work dos and even a WAG wedding at one point and the situations they get in are hilarious. It was also super sweet watching them get to know each other better. Max doesn't do girlfriends and Neve hasn't had a boyfriend so their whole situation is a big learning curve for the both of them.
Not only is this one of my favourite adult books by Sarra Manning but one of my favourite books of hers altogether. It's sweet, funny and romantic all at the same time. It has everything I could want in a book.
'You Don't Have to Say You Love Me' is only Sarra Manning's second novel and, as I had not read her first, I did not really know what to expect. The cover is slightly misleading, as, with only a pair of pink glossy lips on show, it made me think that the content was going to be lightweight and perhaps even a bit frivolous. But they do say that you should never judge a book by its cover and that is certainly the case with this one which was much more thought provoking and entertaining than I first expected.
Neve is the central character and the reader soon realises that she has major issues with her self esteem. She has embarked on a rigorous diet and exercise regime that has enabled her to lose over half her body weight having previously weighed about twenty five stone. However she still thinks that she is hideously fat and unattractive and yearns to fit into those elusive size ten clothes. She is also waiting for William, the love of her life to return from America after having been away for three years. She is convinced that they are destined to be together, especially after she has lost so much weight, but is worried that she has never had a proper relationship before. That is where Max comes in. He is very attractive but has a totally relaxed attitude towards relationships. He is the ideal boyfriend to practice on and Neve feels sure that, when William comes back, they will just be able to walk away from each other with no hearts broken! In fact he is perfect for what she describes as a 'pancake' relationship, as the first pancake is the one that you test before throwing it away.
What Neve doesn't count on though is how well she and Max will get on and how much fun they will have. As Max is in publishing with a glamorous lifestyle, he introduces her to all sorts of people and takes her to fantastic events that she could never have dreamed of, especially as her work in archives is somewhat dull. Neve really starts enjoying herself and starts thinking about William less and less as Max takes up more of her thoughts. There is also the great sex (described in great detail at times) which is something she never expected, especially considering how she feels about her body. The question is whether, when the time comes, will she be able to turn her back on Max in favour of William, and how will they both feel about it? This is what kept me absorbed and engrossed throughout this thoroughly entertaining book.
I liked the way that Sarra Manning explored the complexities of relationships in such a way that I could easily identify with the characters. Neve is one of the most naive women that you could ever expect to meet in a book. Her lack of experience means that most of the time she fails to see what is happening before her very eyes, especially as far as Max is concerned, and the situation is much more apparent to the reader than it is to her hapless self! Max is a thoroughly engaging character too and it becomes apparent very soon that he is much more thoughtful and deeper than the one is first led to believe. These two are surrounded by a whole host of characters that all contribute to the story in their own way.
Although 'You Don't Have to Say You Love' me is very light and easy to read, it is also quite heartbreaking at times. Neve's feelings about her body and her failure to see it as anything less than hideous is so very sad and highlights what is a real issue for so many people. I felt that this element of the story was dealt with extremely sensitively and did not in any way make light of this intense problem. However, Sarra Manning does not dwell on this too much either, and the story is interspersed with many lighter and humorous moments too.
As far as I am concerned, 'You Don't Have to Say You Love Me' is a bit long with just over 550 pages. I generally prefer to read books that are about two thirds that length and I was a bit concerned that the story might have been padded out unnecessarily. However this was not the case and, with many sub plots interweaved, I would say that most pages were needed. I also read the last hundred pages in one go as by that point I was totally hooked.
I really enjoyed reading 'You Don't Have to Say You Love Me' and I definitely recommend it. It has also made me determined to read Sarra Manning's first book, 'Unsticky', and to look out for more from her in the future.
The paperback is currently available on Amazon for £4.89 (April 2011).
This review has previously appeared under my name at www.curiousbookfand.co.uk and who organised a review copy for me. Thanks
Neve Slater is a thin girl trapped in a larger girl's body. Despite losing 13 stone, she still can't get into her head the fact she now has a great figure, and is convinced that no man will ever find her attractive. No man except her beloved William of course. He lives in America but is returning home soon and Neve can't wait to surprise him with her new look. However, she realises she has no experience in relationships at all, and together with sister Celia sets about getting some. She meets Celia's editor Max, a man Neve is convinced wouldn't look twice at her. But when he appears interested, Neve decides to use him for practice for her upcoming relationship with William. But when Neve starts to develop deeper feelings for Max, is she going to cut and run or stick out her "pancake relationship" permanently?
I haven't read anything by author Sarra Manning so far, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me is Manning's second adult novel following 'Unsticky', but she has also written a host of teen novels too. The cover of this book isn't exactly my thing - I far prefer the supermarket versions with the petals which you can see here, but of course I tried not to judge the book by its cover as we're always told not to do! I was a little unsure about the book's premise - is it right in this day and age to be writing about women changing their figures just to make men fall in love with them? Either way, I hoped Manning had a trump card up her sleeve with this book and sat down to read the 500+ page novel.
The character of Neve is our leading lady. I have to say while I liked Neve at the beginning of the book, I found myself disliking her more and more as the book progressed. She was absolutely fixated with her weight and her appearance, to the point where it became incredibly irritating to hear her harp on about it although its made clear by the narrative she is far from either of these things. I know myself that when a woman feels bad about herself, nothing is going to change her mind, even if she really did look like Claudia Schiffer, but for some reason with Neve I found myself much like Max - getting irritated and impatient with her. I think this therefore put my mind in a negative thought throughout the book - lack of sympathy for the lead character is always a problem for the likeability overall.
The other characters were much more pleasing to me. One of my favourites was Celia, Neve's younger sister. She's slightly mad, loving her funky fashion and not really having any responsibilities, but she was such a welcome change from Neve's constant diatribe that I really enjoyed everytime she popped up in a scene. Likewise Max. He was clearly written to be the boy we all love to hate, but I found myself liking him despite this. I could see his predatory side wasn't particularly good, but when he was with Neve, he was very different and I loathed Neve for how she was treating Max. I was actually wishing Max would just tell Neve to shut up sometimes, I was egging him on in my mind anyway! The final character, and one I disliked again, was William. I couldn't stand his arrogant letters to Neve, and could see how the whole thing was going to end up immediately, there was no surprise element there at all for me.
While it might sound like there was nothing I liked about the book thus far, that isn't true. I thought the book itself was well written. The narrative from Neve's perspective was easy to read, and Manning's first person narrative was enjoyable, albeit annoying at times when she is being self-deprecating. The story itself was good - I could see how it was going to end up, but I liked the journey it took to get there. I did find it a little slow at first and I found it hard to get into the book initially, but once I was around 1/3 of the way in, it did pick up and I really did start to enjoy the pace of the book and the story itself. I especially loved Manning's brief detour into the world of WAG's with Neve, this was humorous and enjoyable and a nice change from Neve's day to day life as an archivist.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, but I do have reservations about it. I did find the whole plot line of losing weight to impress a guy a bit too shallow - I certainly expect more from today's chick lit and I was a bit surprised to see Manning go down this route. I believe Neve was written to be a sympathetic character, but I just couldn't feel sorry for her at all. She was too negative all the time for me, and it grate on my nerves, to the point where I didn't want to pick the book up at times. There are a couple of other storylines in there that were very well done, especially the one with Neve and her sister-in-law Charlotte, but the one between Neve, Max and William just seemed a bit trite to me, and I wonder whether Manning missed the mark with this one. The writing is good, the plot was at times good also but my problem with the basic premise of the book still stands, as did my dislike of the main character Neve.
ISBN: 978-0552163293. Published by Corgi in February 2011. Pages: 560. RRP: £6.99
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitreviews.com.
Thank you for reading.