Meet author Holly Bourne – the Queen of YA

Article | Dec 2023

Holly Bourne is a bestselling and critically acclaimed author whose novels include Am I Normal Yet?How Hard Can Love Be?The Manifesto on How to be Interesting and Soulmates. Her latest novel, You Could be So Pretty, is a dystopian YA novel with a shocking twist!

Good Reading for Young Adults caught up with Holly to chat about everything from her new book to her favourite books!



In Belle and Joni’s world there are two options for girls:

One, follow the rules of the Doctrine like Belle: apply your Mask, work hard to be crowned at the Ceremony, be a Pretty.

Or two, fight the rules like Joni: leave your face bare, work hard to escape to the Education, be an Objectionable.

But maybe there is a third option…
Change the rules. Reclaim your power. If you can…

What would you choose?

Warning – this novel deals with issues that some readers may find upsetting, including references to pornography and sexual assault.


What are you reading now? 

I’ve just finished an incredible memoir, literally last night, called Learning To Think by Tracy King. It’s about growing up in poverty, and overcoming earth-shattering trauma through education and the power of critical thinking. It’s going to be the book of 2023, I truly believe it. I was astounded by King’s insight and compassion. 

If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only have five books – what would they be? 

Probably some kind of survival guide for vegetarians, if such a thing exists. 

To Kill A Mockingbird – as I re-read it at least once a year  

War And Peace – if I can’t get through that on a desert island, then I never will  

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower – still one of the best YA books ever written  

Angus, Thongs, And Full-frontal Snogging – my ultimate comfort read 


Where is your favourite place to read? 

Tucked up in bed, an hour before I go to sleep. I cannot sleep if I haven’t read, my brain doesn’t understand.  

Do you read one book at a time or multiple? 

I can only read one book at a time, though I am a real magazine fan and read my weeklies alongside any novel I’ve got on the go. I am very impressed with people who can read multiple books, but, at the best of times, I need a piece of paper of all the characters on hand to remind myself who is who.  

Do you use a bookmark or fold the corners of pages? 

I totally bastardise my books. I’m horrific. They are so dog-eared and broken-spined by the time I’m finished with them. Books are supposed to be read though, aren’t they? Not delicately peeked through. I find it the ultimate compliment at book signings when one of my readers brings up a battered mess for me to autograph.  

What inspired your latest novel, You Could Be So Pretty? 

 beautyI worked for a youth charity for many years, and experienced first-hand how pornography was shaping their formative years. It was really scary, and things have only gotten worse, with porn culture infiltrating teenager’s relationships, beauty ideals, and notions of gender and violence. I really wanted to explore the dystopian world our young people are now accepting as normal, to get them to realise the public health crisis we’re currently living through. The novel is written as a dystopia, but the world is our own. Things really are this bad, and I’m hoping my book will help teenagers reframe the pressures they’re under and feel empowered to fight against them.  

What can you tell us about your characters Belle and Joni and the challenges they will face in your novel? 

Belle is a Pretty and someone who is thriving under the rules of The Doctrine, or so it would seem. Underneath her perfect exterior, she is anxious, exhausted, and very very hungry.  

Joni is an Objectionable and technically ‘free’ of the constraints of her world. But it’s hard to enjoy her freedom when everyone thinks she’s disgusting and nobody listens to what she has to say.  

They start as adversaries, but are thrown together by a terrifying encounter, and start learning from each other.  

What do you hope readers will take away from this novel? 

girls The book is a contemporary YA novel, written using dystopian language, to make a point about where I think we’re at in society in regards to beauty standard, porn culture, and the normalised sexual violence against women. I hope readers realise I’m not being over-the-top when I say our teens are living through truly dark times, but we can fight for better, fight for freedom. Plus, I hope readers will learn we can fight against these issues without judgement or black-and-white thinking – having empathy for the invisible pressures their peers are under.  

What book character would you be, and why? 

I always felt very close to Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird, especially in the earlier chapters about childhood. I spent my younger years playing outside from dusk till dawn, making up games with kids from my neighbourhood. And I also loved to read. So, probably her.  

If you could meet one author (living or dead) – who would it be and why?

Louise Rennisson – author of the ‘Georgia Nicolson’ series. I was heartbroken when she died as I always hoped I’d meet her. Those books were revolutionary to me as they were the first time I saw girls be proper funny in novels. I still re-read them regularly and literally laugh out loud. I don’t think I’d be the writer I am without her. 



Author-Holly-BourneHolly Bourne is the author of Am I Normal Yet?How Hard Can Love Be?The Manifesto on How to be Interesting and Soulmates. She graduated with a first class degree in Journalism Studies and spent two years working as a local news reporter on the Surrey Mirror, garnering a nomination for Print Journalist of the Year in 2010. Holly worked as a journalist for, an advice and information website for 16-25 year olds. She lives in Lewes.

Visit Holly Bourne’s website 


Author: Holly Bourne

Category: Children's, Teenage & educational

Book Format: Paperback / softback

Publisher: Usborne GB

ISBN: 9781474966832

RRP: $19.99

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