Book Review: She Just Can’t Help Herself by Ollie Quain

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She Just Can’t Help Herself by Ollie Quain
Release Date: 16th June 2016
Publisher: MIRA UK
Buy: Paperback | Kindle
Rating:
5h

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Everybody thinks Ashley Jacobs is #slaying life

With her hot job on a style magazine, cool wardrobe, attitude to match and a cat called Kat Moss – Ashley is fashion. However, beneath the Photoshopped fabulousness she’s on a downward spiral; (not) dealing with rising debts, insurmountable problems in her relationship and growing dread over a rival at work.

…but one woman knows the truth.

As kids, Tanya Dinsdale – nicest of natures, nasty shoes – was Ashley’s best friend. But the darkest of betrayals in their teens made them the worst of enemies. It’s taken Tanya more than a decade to get over what happened. Her future is finally looking good. So, the last person either would want to see is the other. Then their adult worlds collide…

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On the surface, Ashley Jacobs has pretty much the perfect life. Working for style magazine, Catwalk, Ashley has her dream job and a wardrobe to die for (Along with a cat named Kat Moss. COME ON. What more could you want in life!?) However, it soon becomes clear that life for Ashley isn’t as rosy as she’d have you believe. About to start divorce proceedings (the D-word) Ashley is not one to open up and talk about her feelings to…well…anyone. But it’s ok. She’s dealing with everything just fine. With the help of a teeny bit (a lot) of alcohol and a few one night stands. Where’s the harm in that? However, when she is interviewing the, like, star of, like, the moment (like) Noelle Bamford, Ashley loses her cool and a chain of events that take place that night look set to reunite her with someone from her past…Someone who she would rather not see again. EVER.
Meet Tanya Dinsdale. Tanya has convinced herself that she’s perfectly happy with her life, too. Whilst her job may not be that high powered and her boyfriend more keen on making a name for his band rather than settling down and starting a family, that’s still ok. Tanya has also convinced herself she can deal with the obstacles that life throws at her (sometimes by fainting, but let’s not go there…)
When she ends up spilling red wine on Ashley’s (Alexander Wang) shirt she has created a whole lot more problems for herself than just an expensive dry-cleaning bill…

You know sometimes you read the synopsis for a book and just KNOW it’s going to be right up your street? That was pretty much how I felt about She Just Can’t Help Herself. I have heard endless good things ab0out Ollie Quain’s debut, How to Lose Weight and Alienate People and I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in Ashley and Tanya’s (rather complicated) lives.
Before I go any further I have an important announcement to make. I LOVE OLLIE QUAIN. She is just amazing. Her writing, her sense of humour, her characterisation – everything about this novel was spot on. She is such a funny, witty and intelligent writer and one that I am now delighted to have discovered. Reading this novel was like sitting down and having a good old gossip with your friends. Her style of writing is chatty and a breeze to read. It will also have you howling with laughter before you’re even 10% in.
I loved getting to know Ashley and Tanya. Ashley is hard-working and I both loved and feared for her role at Catwalk. It is obvious that she genuinely cares about the magazine and what it puts out to its readers, but it also seems that she is fully intent on pressing the self-destruct button in almost every aspect of her life (although I do agree with her thoughts about Noelle – who is HILARIOUS by the way.) It soon becomes apparent that something happened in her past, something which involves Tanya, but it’s unclear what. You soon discover that the two used to be close friends when they were children, but something has torn their friendship apart and ripped it up into tiny pieces. What could have happened to have caused such a rift between them?
I really liked Tanya. She was not the most confident of souls and it’s clear she is still suffering from something from the past. I know I keep saying the word ‘something.’ You’ll be just as desperate as I was to find out what that SOMETHING was, I promise. Could it really be as bad as everyone was making out and enough to ruin the bond between two best friends? Erm, yes.
The story is told from both women’s perspectives, along with snippets of conversation from the past. This is a really effective way of storytelling as it reels the reader in in a bid to discover what’s going to happen. By having both women as narrators you also grow to understand them a lot more. You’ll bond with both, grow to care about both, get frustrated at both but, ultimately, want what is best for these young women who are both a little bit lost in life.
Noelle was probably both my favourite and least favourite character. Noelle is famous for lots of things; Ashley refers to her as a ‘model-come-DJ-come-It girl-come-presenter-come-entrepreneur-oh, come off it!’ Noelle takes a zillion selfies a day (and that isn’t the only thing she ‘takes’.) Completely outrageous, her characterisation was fantastic and I felt as though she represented so many of the Kardashion-esque celebrities we see in the media. The way she said ‘like’ after every word both infuriated me and made me laugh, the way she called Tanya ‘honeeeey’, the way that she thought the whole world revolved around her. She is one of those characters you’ll love to hate. She would ne a nightmare to be in the same room as, but she is absolutely fabulous to read about. However, I loved the way direction that her story took, and I think other readers will too.

All in all She Just Can’t Help Herself is a gem of a novel. If you like your fiction to be snarky, hilarious and full of bite then this is the novel for you. Strong characters, witty dialogue and an intriguing storyline at its heart (along with a large dose of fashion and friendship) this is one novel that is not to be missed..

A huge thank you to publishers, MIRA, for approving me on NetGalley to read She Just Can’t Help Herself.

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Ollie Quain has worked in television, and as a journalist for lots of women’s and youth magazines, and Editor of Ministry of Sound’s magazine. She lives in London.

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