It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m terrible at sticking to a TBR. This is why I don’t really set one each month. The closest that I get is possibly aiming to read a certain book. The less I commit the more likely it is that I’ll do it. Any hint of pressure and I lose all interest to pick the book up. This is one of the books that I should have got to earlier. It was meant to be a September read because that was Alopecia awareness in the UK. This is the first novel not aimed at children with alopecia representation, so I was interested to read it.
I was 30 when I found the first bald spot on my head. I’m not saying I handled it well but I can’t imagine how I’d have coped with the news as a teenage girl. Like the main character of Bryony Gordon’s novel, my hair was something that people always commented on. I wasn’t at Rapunzel levels but it was the thing I got the most compliments for. Cut to a few years later and it’s gone along with my eyelashes and eyebrows. My 16-year-old self would never have left the house. I am totally in favour of alopecia awareness in literature. We need more stories that show it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. That’s what Let Your Hair Down was meant to do.
Do I think it was totally successful? Not really. That’s not to say it’s a bad novel. It just spends so much time talking about the world of social media influencers that the alopecia elements get shoved in at the end. I understand that it’s meant to be part of a wider narrative about stress and mental health in young people. However, I feel like these elements could have had more time in the spotlight. This book is trying to do so much that it doesn’t seem to know what it’s trying to say. Let Your Hair Down isn’t a book about being diagnosed with alopecia. It’s a book about social media that happens to include it.
The ending in particular could be stronger. It all just happens so quickly. The pacing is all over the place. Something that just highlights how basic the story is. I was mostly on board with updating Rapunzel, but it limited the story a little. Although it was fun having the modern tower block take the place of a tower in the woods. It was also interesting to replace the sorceress with an aunt obsessed with social media. It could have just been left as that but Gordon didn’t want to stop there. As happy as I am to see alopecia in a novel, I don’t think it’s just an extra complication to this novel. It gets lost in the retelling.
Although, I think there were elements that I certainly recognised from my own experience. When Barb notices her first spot, she Googles her symptoms and learns what she can. She also talks about constantly touching her scalp. Something that I did in the days before I told anyone. I wasn’t a huge fan of the way the medical world was represented. The doctor Barb talks to just dismisses her quite quickly and makes it seem unimportant. My own experience with the many doctors I’ve encountered has been great. I wouldn’t want this book to put people off going to their GP.
It’s not that the way alopecia is discussed here is bad, which makes sense given Bryony Gordon’s own experiences. It’s just that it feels like a bit of a gimmick here. This is a book about social media that has a subplot about hair loss. I wish it had stuck to one or the other. It’s not a badly written book either. Although, the timeline gets very irritating and messy. There are flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks. What happened to a good old-fashioned linear structure? Is it so bad for the story to play out normally? Structure aside, Let Your Hair Down wasn’t a terrible read. As someone who normally doesn’t get on with YA, I found it to be better than most.
However, I expected more. Since being diagnosed, I’ve been madly looking for fiction featuring alopecia. The majority of books I’ve found have been meant for children. As this was a YA novel, I had high hopes for what it could do. I have to admit to being disappointed.
4 thoughts on “Book Review – Let Down Your Hair by Bryony Gordon”
A book about social media. That wipes it right off the radar for me. Unless it directly states how evil, harmful and destructive social media is 😀
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Normally I’m the same. This was only on my radar due to the alopecia element.
Although, it actually does a pretty good job of showing how fake and dangerous social media can be. It’s still very simplistic but I find that with all YA.
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