Nine Uses For An Ex-Boyfriend
Hope Delafield hasn’t always had an easy life.
She has red hair and a temper to match, as her mother is constantly reminding her. She can’t wear heels, is terrified of heights and being a primary school teacher isn’t exactly the job she dreamed of doing, especially when her class are stuck on the two times table.
At least Hope has Jack, and Jack is the God of boyfriends. He’s sweet, kind, funny, has a killer smile, a cool job on a fashion magazine and he’s pretty (but in a manly way). Hope knew that Jack was The One ever since their first kiss after the Youth Club Disco and thirteen years later, they’re still totally in love. Totally. They’re even officially pre-engaged. And then Hope catches Jack kissing her best friend Susie…
Does true love forgive and forget? Or does it get mad… and get even?
In spite of not being much of a chick lit reader, I always make a point of reading Sarra Manning’s books. Partly out of nostalgia from her J17 days, and partly because I think she writes funny and honest stories. The title of this one, however, is pretty misleading, as is the blurb. I was expecting a fairly humorous tale of a woman finding ways to get revenge on her ex, and that wasn’t what the story was about at all.
Hope catches her long-term boyfriend Jack kissing her best friend Susie, and the bottom falls out of her world. What follows is a very realistic attempt for them to put their lives back together, and how the characters cope with the fallout. I really empathised with Hope, which is a bit of a worry because I have seen several reviewers refer to her as annoying! She’s a big old mix of insecurity and anger after this betrayal, and although her incredible moodiness is an obvious flaw, I felt really I should be cutting the girl some slack considering the truckload of heartache she was dealing with.
As Jack and Hope try and make it work, Hope inevitably feels she falls short in comparison to the tiny and beautiful Susie, and as they try and rebuild their relationship, her insecurity only makes things worse. It was frustrating to read at times, the lengths Hope was prepared to go to, in order to forgive and forget, and it made me want to hurl the book across the room when Jack acted as a wronged party. Yes, spying on text messages is a bad and silly thing to do, but dude, you put your willy in someone else, so have a bit of perspective yeah?
I think this is probably my favourite of Manning’s novels so far, in spite of it being the most upsetting to read, because it just felt so real. I was fully prepared to hate Jack, and I never came round to thinking he did the right thing, but Manning wrote her characters well and I gradually understood him more. Hope and Jack were together for over ten years; since they were teenagers, and what this novel explores is whether love is enough, and more importantly, what kind of love do you have? Can two people pick up the broken pieces of their relationship and put them back together when trust is damaged? I won’t answer that, you’ll have to read it and find out for yourself!
Sub-plot wise, I was grateful for Hope’s job as a primary school teacher, as the kids provided a little light relief! Her mother just seemed irredeemably awful though, and I felt there was perhaps more that could have been made of that. She seemed spectacularly unsympathetic to Hope’s broken heart, and I never really felt she got called out on her behaviour. The other major character is the initially stand-offish Wilson, who is Susie’s boyfriend, and rather inevitably develops a friendship with Hope after a rocky start. High fives to Manning though, for having him help Hope’s confidence, but in the end it’s not because of anyone else that we see Hope develop, she comes to realisations and makes her own decisions. I won’t spoil what they are for you, but I was glad to see her make her own mind up.
As a final note, not living in North London, the frequent references to locations didn’t really interest me, but I imagine would be nice for those who do hail from Holloway. I’m pretty sure Manning lives in North London so she obviously decided to write what she knows! A few minor niggles in this novel, but ultimately it is a satisfying and emotional read.