Book Review: Love Is For Losers by Wibke Bruggemann

‘What a stupid expression that is in the first place: To fall in love. Like you fall in a ditch or something. Maybe people need to look where they’re going.’

Release date: 28th May 2020

Suitable for ages: 14+

Genre: Romance, teen, LGBTQ+, contepoary

Blurb: Fifteen-year-old Phoebe thinks falling in love is vile and degrading, and vows never to do it. Then, due to circumstances not entirely in her control, she finds herself volunteering at a local thrift shop. There she meets Emma . . . who might unwittingly upend her whole theory on life.

Three adjectives: Wry, witty and hilarious

Recommended for fans of: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series by Louise Rennison and Sex Education (Neflix TV series)

Love Is For Losers opens on New Years Day, when Phoebe Davis realises that her best friend Polly is about to replace her with new boyfriend Tristan. It’s only ever been Phoebe and Polly, friends for life; Phoebe has no idea what she’s going to do without one of the few constants in her life. With her mum working for international medical aid, currently based in Syria helping those in need, she’s now living with Kate, her mum’s best friend, again – Phoebe feels lost, a little angry and baffled at how her hopeless her best friend has become.

Told in diary format, over the course of just over half a year, Love Is For Losers makes for a fast-paced and utterly charming read. Phoebe Davis is a YA protagonist like few others. A realist who views life rather literally, she’s inadvertently charming and very much the right kind of unique. Bruggemann constructs her voice beautifully, so much so that it becomes a delight to anticipate and predict how Phoebe will react to events. She very much sounds like a real teenager (which doesn’t always happen with YA).

It’s also refreshing to read a book which depicts a growing love story in a manner absent of cliches – just like Phoebe herself.  She’s a refreshing character to follow, particularly as she isn’t perfect. She regularly does the ‘wrong’ thing, can’t quite read people and can be immensely judgemental – but that’s not unusual for a 15 year old.  Whilst she regularly messes up, we see her learn and grow as a character; it’s a real delight to follow this happening. I particularly like her idiosyncrasy of researching and compiling data for all manner of crises, it felt like a very believable trait that occasionally resulted in real laugh-out-loud moments.

Speaking of comedy, the ensemble cast of various eccentrics are brilliant. Bruggemann has a created such a delightful array of characters, who we quickly come to know and love.Kate, a Scottish charity shop manager with two ‘designer’ cats, in particular, is an icon in-the-making. Her wisdom, delivered at varying degrees of Scottish-ness, felt immensely believable. She’s a counter to Phoebe, warm and trusting – and their relationship is just delightful. What is also delightful is that Phoebe’s burgeoning relationship with Emma is never overwrought, it’s a beautiful love story that just happens to be about two young women. Even if one of them doesn’t immediately realise that she’s in love…

Delightful and beautiful is the best way to sum up the book overall. Told in a charming and even-handed manner, Bruggemann’s debut novel balances the heavy with the light-hearted. There’s exploration of how difficult it can be to form emotional bonds and trust others, how people can put on a front or mask to protect themselves and how anger can eat us up without us realising it. But there’s also cat escapades, bad interviews at Dream Bear Factory and over-analysing of Whatsapp messages.

Love, loss, longing and laughter – all in one fantastic read.

[5/5 stars]

Pre-order from Waterstones or Hive.

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