Book Review: You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here by Frances Macken

You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here…

About the Book:

Katie has always been content to exist in the shadow of her intoxicating best friend Evelyn. In their small Irish village, Evelyn’s confidence and glamour are enough to make up for her haughty, unpredictable character, and Katie never questions that their friendship will last forever.

But Katie’s dreams of becoming a professional filmmaker pull her away from home to a new life in Dublin, and confront her with a choice: to hold onto a friendship that has made her who she is, or risk leaving her best friend behind.

This mesmerising debut is a captivating story of the people who shape us and the places we struggle to leave behind. Compellingly readable and effortlessly sharp, this is an unmissable novel from a dazzling new talent.

My Thoughts:

I loved this one. It’s everything I especially love in novel: Irish, coming of age, an examination of friendship and the way in which some friendships can be outgrown, being the first in your family to attend University, and the challenges with moving from a rural area into the city. Above all, the Irish part. And the Irish part in this novel was a standout. The narrative was so effortlessly witty and I just adored Katie and her honest introspection that was tempered with kindness and intelligence.

So Katie has grown up in a rural Irish town and has been friends with Evelyn and Maeve forever. Evelyn is a bitch and Maeve is a pity friend. Out of the three, Katie is the only one who leaves once school is done but it’s tough for her, doing it alone in the city, things not working out like she had hoped, having to come to terms with the fact that she might have not only outgrown her hometown, but also her friends while still not having a replacement for these losses. This is very much Katie’s story and her emergence into adulthood, post-university. One of the things I really adored about this novel is that is not in any way a romance. Any romantic relationships she has are brief and not a big part of her journey. This is quite refreshing for this type of story. But that doesn’t mean that Katie isn’t being held back by someone. She is in a relationship, quite a toxic one, but with her best friend Evelyn. Now, Katie is not blind to Evelyn and what she’s like, but that doesn’t make it any easier to shake loose of her hold. There’s a lot of years together and sadly, for Katie, being friends with Evelyn has effectively excluded her from being friends with anyone else because like I mentioned before, Evelyn is a bitch and pretty much everyone other than Katie and Maeve hates her – justifiably.

‘“You’ve changed since you’ve been up here, you know. I used to get a buzz off you but I don’t anymore.” The words are like stones flying out of her mouth and belting my skin. How have I changed? I wonder. Is it bad to change? Is it wrong to follow the dream after all we’ve discussed? And whatever about the art college, couldn’t she still get the job in a cool bar at night and work an internship during the day? And how is it that she had a way of making you thing you could do anything at all, but she hasn’t managed to do very much or go very far herself?’

Maeve was an interesting character, naïve as all get out, and as awkward as they come, but I felt so sorry for her and the abominable way that Evelyn treated her. While Katie didn’t exactly like Maeve and could have definitely been a much better friend to her, at least she had the kindness not be so openly mean to her face. There is a sub-plot going on in the background where a new girl in town, Pamela, goes missing in their final year of high school. It wasn’t so much the mystery of what happened to her that drew me in here but more the way the author had the disappearance impact on the lives of different people within the town. For Katie, it was very much a non-event at the time, and not something she thought all that much about afterwards. I thought this was reflective in a way of Katie’s relationship with Evelyn; it closed her off to all else, so much so, that apart from feeling bad about an incident of bullying that she and Evelyn had done to Pamela, she really didn’t give a care about what had happened to her – or anyone else for that matter.

There’s all of these other little things going on in this story that enrichen it. Katie’s brother Robert and his relationship with his former teacher, linked in a sinister way to the disappearance of Pamela. Maeve meeting her birth mother and going through her own metamorphosis. Aiden, falling apart at the seams after Pamela’s disappearance and turning into one of those creepy guys that you really need to cross the road to avoid encountering. For a story that was told entirely from Katie’s perspective, there was so much going on and so many different threads that we were a party to. This is very well crafted fiction and I was hard pressed to put it down once I’d begun. From the first page to the last, it was like stepping into the novel and being completely immersed into the lives of these characters. Above all, it was so very entertaining; classic Irish and if you’ve read a fair bit of Irish fiction then you’ll know exactly what I mean by this. It’s a hard thing to explain but the humour is of the sort that you will only find in Irish fiction. This is also set in my era so I found plenty of nostalgia within the pages too which never goes astray in terms of my appreciation of a novel.

‘It has me thinking that maybe I’m good enough on my own. Maybe I was always good enough on my own. And maybe the hard road is the easy road after all.’

In some ways, this novel reminded me a fair bit of My Brilliant Friend, just a different time and place, but connected by those themes of friendship, moving on and breaking free. I really enjoyed You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here and wholeheartedly recommend it to all. And seriously, what a title!


Thanks is extended to Bloomsbury for providing me with a copy of You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here for review.

You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here
Published by Oneworld
Released 2nd June 2020

12 thoughts on “Book Review: You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here by Frances Macken

  1. Pingback: My book You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here is on sale now – Frances Macken

  2. I’d never heard of the expression ‘pity friend’ and I had to google it be sure I knew what it meant.
    And it didn’t mean what I thought it meant, i.e. someone you became friends with because you were a nice person and wanted to include someone who was left out. No, having pity friends apparently means that you are not a nice person…

    Liked by 1 person

      • But… speaking as a teacher now… if it’s not nice to have a pity friend, who is going to befriend those isolated kids who don’t have any friends and are always left out of things?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Generally no one and we see a lot of them in the library at lunch time. Although, I have noticed a trend over the years of some kids linking up and forming their own friend groups with other kids that are in the same boat as them, which is always nice to see.
        However, it’s probably worse to be the pity friend than to have a pity friend. I’d rather be alone than with people who only tolerate me for their own motivations – which was the case for poor Maeve in this book.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The Irish sense of humor is very specific and easily recognisable isn’t it? It is not too far removed from Scottish, which is probably why I get it. I think I would read this anyway, as I had an Evelyn in my own life when I was at school, and it sounds as though the author has tapped into something important about intense, unequal friendships which often form between girls of a particular age.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: My book You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here is on sale now – Frances Macken

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