Just the Way You Are by Beth Moran

Just the Way You Are is the story of a journey of self discovery, and while there is romance it is not the main focus of the narrative. Twenty-nine years old and still living with her self-obsessed and manipulative mother, Ollie is at the end of her tether. She hatches a plan to escape and moves to a cottage on the edge of Sherwood Forest, close to the library where she will meet her new clients (she works for the adult literacy charity ReadUp). She plans to enjoy the freedom of living on her own for the first time, and work through her ‘Dream List’. She made this list when she was sixteen, but life did not turn out as she imagined it would.

Beth Moran presents us with a wonderful cast of well-written and totally believable characters, though some of them are quite hard to like. The story involves some fairly serious issues – extreme poverty, domestic violence, toxic family relationships, drug use and illiteracy – but handles them with sensitivity. There is humour and there is sadness; what follows is by turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, but Ollie learns to stand on her own two feet (with the help of her new friends) and works out what it takes for her to be happy. Thanks to Boldwood Books and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.