Review: How to be Perfect by Holly Wainwright

How to be perfect by Holly Wainwright. A fictional novel about the world of blogging.

Do you ever look at the lives of others, especially those broadcast all over social media, and wish you were them? They seem to have it all – the perfect life perhaps. These individuals happily promote their wonderful lifestyles – the clean living, the ideal bodies, the fact that they are always completely in control of their lives, and the idea that they have a free-flowing income coming in because they are classed as an influencer – but are their lives really all that they seem?

This is exactly how Frances feels each day when she reads the latest blog post from Elle Campbell, the yummy mummy who is always in complete control. Unlike Frances who is trying hard but has a baby that likes to test his vocal cords and lung capacity each morning by five am and tends to remain unsettled all morning. How can Frances possibly cleanse herself when her son is screaming during her reflective moments, pooping during her yoga breaks and trying to outdo the noise of the blender when she is trying to create a healthy breakfast for herself? 

Frances fails to see that Elle Campbell may be faking it. She only sees the perfect Instagram photos while listening to the newest set of positive affirmations coming across her social media feed. She has yet to grasp that the whole thing may be a con.

Instead, Frances has become so obsessed she is spending a fortune on the ‘wonder products’ Elle is encouraging her followers to buy in the hope that she too can have this magical lifestyle. She truly believes that if she gives herself a complete Elle overhaul she will be transformed, have more energy and feel more positive about life.

You do have to wonder if the lives lived out over the Internet for thousands to follow along with are real or are they fabricated to reflect a life they would want for themselves. And for those following along, when does a keen interest in the lives of others turn into an obsession? How much time and money are people prepared to spend to recreate the perfect life? 

“… with the fruit and veggies, the supplements and accessories, Frances quietly calculated that the three-day cleanse was costing her around eight hundred dollars.” 

If only Frances could get to Gurva, Elle’s nirvana, or for those more cynical individuals glimpsing at her website, her biggest moneymaker.

“…a lucky few with the necessary disposable income, get to make a pilgrimage to Gurva, the Northern New South Wales hinterland farm where the reborn guru conducts her Elle-ness workshops.” 

But is everything as it seems with Elle or is she manipulating vulnerable people into buying into a brand that in many ways is a complete sham. There are then the rumours of her lying about her husband’s health in her previous blog; lies that we’re exposed by her then husband’s ex and her own sister, Zoe. 

Will this blog fail in a similar way or has Elle learned from her previous mistakes?

Unlike Frances, Abi’s life is finally coming together. She is about to marry the person of her dreams and is the curator of a rather popular blog. Life is hectic, understandably so, with six kids to look after, one of which, Arden, has just turned 16 and believes she can make it in the world as a beauty vlogger so she spends her days applying, removing and reapplying all the freebies that come through the door.

How far is Arden prepared to go for the notoriety though?  Will she stop at nothing to get the views and the money coming in? 

There is one further snag in Abi’s perfect world – an ex-husband who is living with them blogging about finance and hoping to gain a publishing deal. If he succeeds will he finally move on? Abi does hope so. She really wants to start the New Year differently, married to the person of her dreams without her past lingering in the background.

The men, it seems, are no less complicated.

Adrian, Elle’s almost ex-husband used to be a big shot in the city but since she disappeared on him, he has been living in his ex-wife’s shed with their two sons trying to get his book published. His once-flourishing finance career stopped the day Elle’s lies where exposed. Ashamed to show his face back in the city he has instead hunkered down on the farm and turned from a money-centric businessman wanting the best that money can buy, into a born-again eco-concerned stay at home dad trying to rebrand himself.

Ben Bout is a man who knows what he wants and usually gets it. With money to buy whatever he chooses and the looks to get whatever he wants, it seems strange, even to him, that he has fallen for just one woman. However, there is just one problem. He is convinced she is playing games therefore it’s time he plays them as well. Will this lead to a bitter end or will their love flourish?

Matt is Elle’s confidante. Having known her longer than anyone else he knows what makes her tick. He knows how harsh she can be and how to temper her anger, but what is his hidden agenda?

It seems there is to be no end to the drama unfolding through the pages of this novel. You have to wonder whether these people are attracted to theatrical scenes or whether they like to instigate it to make their lives seem more interesting.

Will Elle get what she truly deserves? Will Frances feel her life is more fulfilled and in control with the support of Elle’s blog? Will Abi finally get the happy ending she so desires? The only way to find out is to pick the book up and enjoy it.

My Thoughts on How to be Perfect

Coming from the blogging world, I know that some people are genuinely nice people and post truthfully. I am also aware of those that fabricate a better lifestyle in the hope to gain more followers, more clicks and ultimately more money. The influencer world is certainly as cut-throat as any other industry but it is normally played out on social media for everyone to see.

With this in mind, when reading How to be Perfect, I could relate to the stresses and concerns of the bloggers mentioned. I could also, however, relate to the pressures that Frances felt and the fact that she was completely overwhelmed, feeling inconsequential and understandably crap about the way her life had panned out.  For me, it was her character that kept me reading. Holly Wainwright has managed to encompass the emotional state of so many when they look at these so-called flawless influencers that are plastered all over the internet.

It is a funny, quick-reading novel that, whether intentionally or not, mocks the blogging world while also raising the series issue of people today falling hook, line, and sinker for everything they read online.  

Have you read How to be Perfect? Perhaps you have read the prequel, The Mummy Bloggers. If so, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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