Originally published: 9 July 2020
Author: Helly Acton
Published by: Zaffre
Length: 400 pages
Reading dates: 15-17 July 2020
Amy is in her early 30s and (according to Instagram) everyone in her life seems to be getting married and having babies and she is starting to feel left behind. So when her boyfriend of two years Jamie, surprises her with a dream holiday she is sure he is going to pop the question at last. But he has tricked her – instead of an exotic holiday, he has signed her up to a Big Brother style reality TV show, The Shelf.
Along with 5 other women, Amy is dumped live on TV in front of millions of viewers (and is left on the shelf). Their task is to stay in the house for a month, completing a set of challenges, with the hope of being crowned “The Keeper” with the prize of a million pounds.
The reason Amy agrees to the humiliation is about the money to begin with, but as she finds herself getting to know the other housemates, she starts to realise what she actually wants in life and she might just come away with a much bigger reward.
A fun book with some important messages! Amy has convinced herself she wants to be with Jamie. Scared of being alone and having to start again, she lets him treat her terribly – his nickname for her is Piglet, he is selfish, rude and just plain awful to her but she refuses to see it. At first she is devastated he has dumped her but then she gets angry. As part of the show she has weekly therapy sessions and in these she realises she deserves better and starts to think about what she really wants from life.
Some of the men in this book will make you really angry! Jamie is the biggest prick there is (excuse my language) and Adam, the host of The Shelf is also horrid! I had to keep reminding myself that most men are not like that! What was great about this book was the female friendships that formed in the house. The women are from different backgrounds and vary in age but as time progresses they become the greatest form of support for each other, becoming each others champions as they invariably go through different traumas.
Acton’s writing is sharp and snappy and The Shelf encompasses all the worries of women today who are viewing perfect lives on Instagram, knowing it isn’t real but wanting the same anyway! I loved the idea of it being set on a reality TV show – I used to love Big Brother (the earlier seasons) and I could just imagine watching something like this if it was real and cheering those women on! Funny and clever, I highly recommend this!
About the author:
Helly Acton is a copywriter from London with past lives in the Middle East, Africa and Australia. Born in Zimbabwe, Helly and her family emigrated to the East Sussex coast when she was 15 years old. Here, she finished school and spent her holidays in Saudi Arabia, where her father had been placed with work. She studied Law at King’s College London before following a more creative path into advertising. In her mid-twenties, Helly escaped the rat race and took a three-month career break to travel in Africa, India and Asia before landing in Australia. What was supposed to last one year ended up lasting six, and after a life-affirming break-up in Sydney she returned home to find herself the last of her single friends. Helly threw herself into the deep end of online dating in the city and uses her experience as a single woman in her early thirties, torn between settling down and savouring her independence, as a source of inspiration for her stories..