Aaah, I so wanted to love this book that it’s super frustrating that I didn’t! I read it because of a wonderful review of one of my fellow bookstagrammers and because the blurb sounded right up my alley. But sadly, I didn’t really like any of the main characters and there were some other issues as well that made Glitterland quite a letdown for me.
I loved Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material and was so glad when I saw the high praise for Glitterland as well, even though the topic for this one was a bit more difficult. Glitterland follows the clinically depressed and bipolar author Ash, who hides from the world due to his anxiety disorder and has given up completely on happiness and love, just trying to survive another day. So I know it wouldn’t be an easy, light beach read… but I did expect to root for the characters and be completely invested in their wellbeing and romance, but sadly I wasn’t.
The premise of this book reminded me quite a lot of There Is A Light by Ban Gilmartin with the raw descriptions of mental illness, the way depression affects the daily life and the people around you, and the chance romantic meeting. But whereas There Is A Light had wonderful characters that completely stole my heart, Glitterland had the opposite – characters that I genuinely disliked.
The main character Ash had type 1 bipolar disorder and suffered from depression, panic attacks and had been hospitalized during his manic episodes, as well as for trying to commit suicide. But he was also kind or a jerk, to be honest. Some of his bad actions could definitely be blamed on the illness, but some were just because of his unlikable and selfish personality. The description of his mental health issues was done very well, and as readers we could completely understand hos his mental issues truly made it hard or impossible for him to do certain things, or interact with other people. But it was also quite clear that he sometimes used his mental health to manipulate his friends or for selfish gains. And speaking of his friends, Ash mostly avoided them or treated them badly, which made it difficult to understand why the put up with him, even though I have to admit that at times he was quite funny with his witty sarcasm.
At one of the rare occasions when Ash did leave his house, he met the ‘orange glitter pirate’ Darian from Essex and a one night stands turned into something else. Darian was a true sweetheart, but the way he was described also made him very shallow and more of a cliché with the sexy but stupid model. On top of that, all his dialogue were written phonetically in a thick lower class Essex accent. I know from many of the reviews that a lot of readers had an issue with this writing style. But the use of accent as a writing style was actually quite alright for me as such. My main problem was hos the use of a lower class accent was used as a way to make Darian seem stupid and naïve, and to make Ash superior to him.
Then there was Ash’s best friend and former lover Niall, who outed his mental health and was being a mean jerk in other ways all through the book, but who Ash in return guilt tripped for selfish gains (like being picked up from a one night stand in the middle of the night). I just couldn’t like or understand Niall or his and Ash’s toxic relationship at all. But there was definitely an interesting story behind Niall’s characters and how he’d fallen in love with two guys who never felt the same way about him. I wished we would have gotten to see more of the backstory there; I feel like I probably would have rooted for his character more if we had.
The plotline was a bit aimless, with no clear start or ending, and a lot of things that were mentioned but never fully explored. Not only Niall’s backstory, but for example the process of the new book that Ash was writing (where its ‘research’ played a major role for the story) or Darian’s ex who now seemed to be his coworker (?) and how and when their relationship had ended. All this made it a bit hard to stay invested. And when things seemed to be going a bit better for Ash, of course his self-destructiveness had to ruin it all again…
I did however truly love the side characters Chloe and Amy, and their loyalty and support for their friends and their sharpness and humor! Overall, I also loved the humor and banter throughout this book. It was so British and so witty, elegant and full of sarcasm, which is my favorite kind of humor!
I also appreciated how Alexis Hall didn’t make mental health into something that could be cured by love. Even though the romance with Darian made Ash happier, it didn’t make his mental issues magically disappear, which made the story so much more real and relatable. I also appreciated Ash’s character growth in the end, but wished for it to have come sooner.
So all in all, this book was a bit of a letdown, but it definitely had a lot of great parts and Alexis Hall definitely is a talented writer. And extra kudos for the raw and real descriptions of mental health problems and the British humor. I just wished that the characters would have been a little more likable…
(In the latest edition of Glitterland, the short story Aftermath has been added, which I enjoyed so much more! That one was so much sweeter and really showed Ash’s character growth and gave us a true cinnamon roll moment.)
2.5 stars for Glitterland (4 stars for Aftermath)
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abby Kaitz Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Alice Winn Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira Amanda Woody A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Ban Gilmartin Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cait Nary Cale Dietrich Cara Dee Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare Cat Sebastian C.F. White C.G. Drews Charlie Adhara Charli Meadows Chasten Buttigieg Chris Bedell Christina Lauren Christina Lee Ciara Smyth Claerie Kavanaugh Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Courtney Kae Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Dallas Smith Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton D.N. Bryn Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E.L. Massey E. Lockhart Emery Lee Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens F.T. Lukens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hannah Grace Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving H.S. Valley Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacob Gelman Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson James L. Sutter Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jen Bailey Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé Kathy Anderson K.A. Tucker KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Lauren Shippen Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Lex Croucher Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr M.A. Wardell Melanie Munton Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nathaniel Shea Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Nyla K. Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rachel Reid Racquel Marie Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Taylor Jenkins Reid Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Tracy Deonn Tucker Shaw Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez