Poptastic by Victoria Holmes

Poptastic is a tragicomedy which shows us what happens when the chaos and debris of real life meets the manufactured world of online dating, and profiles of untruths sit side-by-side filtered photos as versions of reality. And then you realise that sometimes what you’re looking for is right in front of you.

What was the book about?
Bridesmaiding is a tedious business at the best of times, but as Julia discovers, the task is particularly cumbersome when one of the brides is your ex and her fiancée won’t stop sulking about it. With the wedding threatening to dominate everything for the rest of the year, a bewildering embrace with a devastatingly attractive pop star offers a welcome distraction. Dating Krisha catapults Julia away from the paltry concerns of dress fittings and hen dos, but it also takes her away from her friends, and directly leads to her most disastrous f**k up yet. Much to her surprise, she discovers that embracing the role she’d accepted so reluctantly might just be exactly what she needs.

Featured Tropes
Second-chance romance, online dating. (Content warning: suicide attempt, domestic violence)

Book Strengths
Poptastic is the name of the TV show in which the short-lived girlfriend of main character Julia is a star. It’s interesting that the entire novel is named after that one plot point, because when you read more deeply, there’s so much more to this novel than their relationship. The artificiality of the celebrity and her fabricated life demonstrates how filtered it is compared with the authenticity of Julia and her friends’ lives, where finding a moment of gold means more than all the glittery emptiness from the world of plastic. It’s poptastic. 

Holmes also touches on parts of life that are so weighty and sharp that they cut into the lives of Julia and her group of friends and also through the manufactured facade of the Poptastic world she visits. Issues such as intimate partner violence, drug taking, and attempted suicide aren’t just for everyday people; they consume those who feel removed from such tawdriness. The dialogue is quick and is used to develop the characters’ arcs. The humour is very British which I found delightful. It’s the dark, sarcastic, self-deprecating, laughing at the sheer misery of everything type of humour. Some of the events are just so tragic that humour is the only lifeline the characters have to deal with the awful. Just like our lives. Holmes developed her characters so well that at one point, when Julia’s life is so appalling, I wanted to reach through the words and hug her.

Book weaknesses
The book is speedy. Like when you’re sitting on a train and the landscape flashes past and it’s a little hard to keep up, but somehow you do. I would have enjoyed wallowing in some events for a bit. This relates to the ending as well, which had a rather quick resolution. But actually, sometimes life’s like that. Life’s just awful and everything is shit and it’s hard to see out of your own mess. And then suddenly it’s not messy. It’s great. That’s the type of ending in Poptastic. It works.

Character Chemistry
Julia and Krisha’s chemistry is negligible and artificially contrived, which is the point, because that’s the basis of their relationship. Julia and Kit’s chemistry is real and lovely. Sex does happen in the novel. Well, the idea of it is there, anyway. Nipples and breasts are mentioned in passing. But a lack of a sex scene or two does not take away from the novel.

Heat Rating
2 flames

Wrap Up
Poptastic relates to pop music but this novel shows that poptastic is actually about the incredibly fake lives and personas we project in order to garner popularity. Real life is disheveled and unfiltered, and Julia realises that disheveled and unfiltered is exactly where she needs to be. Poptastic’s tragicomedy style works well to bring us this message. 

Star Rating
4 stars

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