Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo

Title: Holier Than Thou 

Author: Laura Buzo 

Rating: 4.5 Stars 

If I'm to be perfectly honest, I still don't know what to say about this novel. While I didn't love it the way I did Buzo's debut, Good Oil (now published in America under the title Love and Other Perishable Items), I feel as if I've come out of this book with a new-found respect for Laura Buzo and a wiser, more contemplative, and almost whole feeling. In so many ways, Holier Than Thou completes me. It's hard to say why, but it just does.

Holier Than Thou is one of those novels that you either love or hate. It either resonates with you or simply falls flat for it is one of those stories that pulls at your heartstrings if you're able to truly connect with it. Although I'm not the targeted audience of this novel, being a couple years under the mid-twenties Holly Yarkov of this piece, I found that it moved me beyond words. In her world, Holly is labeled as a "Woman of Steel." In other words, a survivor. Not only has she gotten through the slow, dragging, and painful death of her father, but she has experienced a love that never culminated and ultimately got away. Now, Holly is undergoing the slap-in-your-face reality that her friends from high school are moving on without her, that her job is not quite what she thought it would be, and that living with your boyfriend in your own apartment doesn't necessarily mean you get to see him all that much. 

Buzo's sophomore piece is a very slow-moving and character-driven tale. It takes awhile to get to the meat of the story for Holly is a character with plenty of barriers, yet incredibly endearing and like-able at the same time. Holly is an observer; she loves to watch the lives of those around her and gain simple pleasures from their happiness. Holly is a do-gooder; she's the glue that has somehow managed to keep her friends together for so long. Yet, Holly can't help but look back, help but try to observe and analyze and try to find where it all went wrong. It could have started with Liam, the boy Holly crushed on in high school, the boy who grew to become close friends with Holly, the boy who could have been Holly's Mr. Right, until he wasn't. It could have started with her father, with the fact that she was always her father's daughter and now, with him gone, she didn't quite have a place in the family anymore. Or did it start with Nick, the co-worker who somehow makes her laugh and smile despite her desolate days and whose relationship status in her life is become increasingly blurred? 

Holier Than Thou is realistic. It's gutting, it transports you back in time and it makes you feel as if you yourself are Holly, going through her struggles, her job, her life. It is achingly bittersweet and it isn't an easy book to read at times, simply because everything feels so very real. I can't imagine not feeling like Holly herself during this novel and her journey as the story progresses, the mistakes she makes, the people she meets, the wrongs she has to all seems so familiar somehow. Holier Than Thou is a novel that brings back memories, that triggers nostalgia, and makes you look to the future as well. I, personally, am at the stage in my life where I look at my friend circle and wonder which one of us will keep in touch, which one of us will move on, which one of us will even care in a few years. I am at the stage in my life where I can't fathom one career being wholly satisfactory, where I can see myself losing interest in any job I may pursue, and where I can see my future crumbling apart just as Holly's has. 

Yet, the message of this novel isn't desolation. It's hope. For, you see, I never saw Holly as a Woman of Steel. Not for much of this novel. It is at the end of the story, when she is picking up all the broken pieces and still persevering on and doing what she thinks is right despite her mistakes and the mistakes of others, that Holly becomes a Woman of Steel. It is now that she has faced her past, her fears, her hopes, her dreams, and come to realize that life moves on no matter what, that she is strong. 

I guess that's how I'd sum up Holier Than Thou. LIFE. Since really, that's all life is, right? A continuous train of gains and losses, happiness and sadness, excitement and nostalgia, THE ultimate dose of bittersweet...Yet, it's that ambiguous ending that truly takes my breath away when it comes to this novel. I know a lot of people keep saying it keeps you in the dark, but it DOESN'T. It's like Good Oil. Buzo builds these characters that are so real and tangible and palpable and it's like she's testing you at the end - how well do you really know them? Since, honestly, the pieces are all there - you just need to put them together. When you consider Holly, her actions, her personality, the ending no longer becomes AS ambiguous. It's all kind of stunning in its perfect puzzle-piece-like quality in fact. 

I can't fully articulate why I loved this novel, but I did. Laura Buzo is one of those authors I can always trust to never let me down. If this is the New Adult genre, then yes, I want more. But, mostly, I just want Laura Buzo to keep writing such masterpieces; such beautiful pieces of literature that just take my breath away, make my heart stop, and make me laugh and cry at the same time, just like the bittersweet bundle they are themselves. 


  1. Love this review, Keertana. I'm so happy you loved Holier Than Thou :)

  2. What a stunning review Keertana! You have a gift with words and for writing about a book in a way that makes me feel as though I've read it myself and experienced it without actually giving any concrete information away. This sounds like a fantastic story, I want to meet Holly immediately and be side by side with her when she struggles. I haven't read anything by Lauren Buzo, and clearly that is a mistake. One I need to remedy asap!

  3. Oh I didn't realise this was written by the author of Good Oil! I completely missed that. You make this sounds like something I would truly enjoy, despite it being about characters a little older than me. I can't say no to another Aussie gem now can I? ;) Great review, Keertana!

  4. Oh this is beautiful review Keertana, I think you managed to capture once again the essence of this book in your review. This was a lot different to Buzo's Good Oil but I think I loved it just as much, it's got me wanting more of her books asap! :)

  5. Wow, this book sounds like not just a pick-me-up but a keeper!
    I am raring to read Good Oil too.
    I actually like ambiguous ends when they are ambiguous on purpose. That the author is letting the reader have a say in the novel, an active part in thinking what may or may not be.
    Great review.. and very convincing for someone sitting on the fence about this book!

    Addie @ That READioactive Book Blog

  6. Gosh, Keertana. What a review! You have such a stunning gift for articulation. It's rather beautiful.

    This book sounds heartbreaking and hopeful all in one and your review actually moved me when talking about it because I could feel your emotion in the review.

    I'm not sure if this book is for me, I maybe want something a little happier at the moment, but still thanks for highlighting a brilliant book as always.

  7. *sigh* Such a beautiful review, Keertana. :) (Not that I expected anything less of you, that is!) I've seen reviews ranging from negative ratings 2 star ratings to high five star ratings, but based on the good portion of reviews I've read, I *think* I'll really like this one. :) I'm starting Love and Other Perishable Items/Good Oil within the next few weeks, anyhow - I can hardly wait to dive in! :)

  8. Holyfreakingbeautifulreview, Keertana. I'm actually blown away right now. You say that you're not sure why you loved this book so much, but to me, it seems like you know exactly why. The character sound so, so, so incredibly real that it's hard for the reader not to relate or understand. And the ending, the purpose of the author's ending-- really seems genuine and reasonable. It seems like the plot is simple, yet complex at the same time. I'm so glad you enjoyed this, Keertana. Again, phenomenal review!

  9. I'm glad that this story really struck a cord with you, Keertana. This review is amazing. :) I've seen a lot of mixed reviews for this story, so you're right, I think this is a book you'll either love or hate. I don't think I would fall in the "love it" category which is why I haven't picked it up.

  10. I love that Holly is an Observer because Buzo herself has this way of putting the simplest things into the most amazing words and the combination is very promising.
    I'm not sure if you know this, but Flannery is making me read this in our She Made Me Do It challenge. Not that I didn't want to before, but she pretty much ensured that I read it soon.
    Can't wait to compare notes.
    Fantastic review, my friend.

  11. I really need to read a Laura Buzo book! Although I've heard great things about Love and Other Perishable Items, I'm wondering whether I should first read Holier Than Thou. I like that the protagonist of this is closer to my age, and it sounds like I could relate to a number of her experiences. I also haven't read any technically "new adult" books yet either!

    This is such a wonderful review, and I love how you focus on the ultimately positive message of the book, even though it sounds as though Holly is dealing with lots of trying circumstances. And I hear you - so many times I feel like my words and reviews can't really express the feelings I get through the experience of reading certain books.


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