Have you ever imagined what it could be like in the Big Brother house? Nor did I until I read Helly Acton’s The Shelf, and my goodness did it feel as evasive as it damn well is!

Amy is in her thirties, still not completely living with her boyfriend Jamie. Good thing I say, as it turns out, he’s a bit of a d*ckhead. Imagine the most self-absorbed, boring, cocky, idiotic person: equals Jamie = massive d*ckhead.

Like most of us, whether you want to admit it or not, as we get older we tend to compare ourselves to others, including our friends and family. Amy does just that. Her friends are all grown up, have babies, have embraced the single life or are too busy being happy with their engagement or upcoming holiday.

But Amy doesn’t have that.

She’s waiting. She’s afraid it might be too late: too late to have babies, travel to the other side of the world on her own which she has longed for, to get married… She’s afraid. Afraid she will end up on the ‘shelf’ to not receive a second looking from anyone else. It seems she has just settled with Jamie. They still haven’t moved in together, but of course, he has his start-up business which is going to kick off: he’s going to buy them a big house, fantastic holidays, a Range Rover.

Let’s trust Jamie.

Yes, let’s trust Jamie because he has suggested he and Amy go away, but it’s a surprise! Could this be the time he finally pops the question?!

Turns out … no. No. He doesn’t. Quite the opposite, as Amy finds herself, quite literally left on The Shelf: a Big Brother-esque reality TV show where she has been dumped on TV and has the opportunity to spend two weeks competing against other unfortunate ladies to win £1million!

Had I read the blurb of this book, I would not have dreamed having picking up something based on a reality TV show, but thank goodness I didn’t – this book was brilliant! It was so unexpected, with some questionable moments as to how legal this situation would be.

Helly Acton’s writing is compelling and full of sharp wit, where she embodies each character’s personality as someone we probably know in real life or have seen on TV, each having their own issues after being dumped by their other half, although some seem to be in there for very different reasons!

This book is the epitome of sisterhood, acting as a great piece of feminist fiction and girl power, as each contestant supports each other through tough times as they complete tasks to make their way up the leader board – the one closest to the bottom faces being voted out by the public every few days.

Acton captures the annoying Z-lister presenter Adam perfectly, which I’m sure we can picture as someone in the public eye, who may make an appearance every few years to clutch at their 15 minutes of fame.

Despite the witty points, I found myself being agitated at the show being run by men, as I couldn’t imagine any women agreeing to it, having found themselves dumped (and dumped) on the show. It is damn sexist, so I would be interested to see what my view and others would be like if The Shelf was written by a man

The Shelf ladies are a close bunch, yet the idea of the show somehow doesn’t make sense: how can we have such a programme on TV especially with the modern power of social media? However, you only need to compare it to Love Island to see, ‘yeah, maybe it could happen’.

I can kind of relate to Amy a year or so ago. I thought my life was over (at the mere age of barely 21 would you believe?) as I didn’t have a boyfriend nor a job I liked for example.

But, it all comes down to a major realisation and acceptance: self-acceptance and self-love.

Then the rest follows.

rating – 5/5
genre – fiction, humour, satire, ‘romance’

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