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The Shelf

The Shelf by Helly Acton

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By Helly Acton

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8 reviews


03 Aug 2021


The setting of this book is a reality television show where women are tricked into being there by their boyfriends or husbands. I find the whole idea so totally revolting as to be absurd. I fought the precis the entire time I read it. That said I kept slogging away in hopes that some of the male characters would get their comeupance. I also was dismayed that this book was written by a woman.
Regardless I read the entire book feeling a bit used and a bit angry that any woman could write such a misogenist pile of whooey. Then all of a sudden I backed off the knee jerk reaction and thought maybe it was being ironical. Maybe it was. Being dumped and humiliated on a television show because you had put on weight, paid too much attention to your aging father or weren't pleasing your self-centered boyfriend enough were all too superficial. There was constant stream of trolling comments presented to them via a television that was never turned off. Perhaps the author used all of this ludicrous tripe as a way of critiquing how society is heading into something dangerous and ugly.
Each of the dumped women did learn a lot from having to face the ultimate humiliations but what they learned was not just how to do their makeup better or how to please a man but how to identify what it is they need to make themselves happy and to be more fulfilled.
Perhaps it is a good book to read. It can be though provoking. I still felt it is superficial and too light for the subject matter. However it may be a better book than I though at first.

23 Feb 2021

St Regulus SM

I just couldn't get on with this book. I found the tone and writing style annoying, and the idea of a game show of this nature ridiculous and outdated.

17 Jan 2021


I had no intention of liking this book. I don't like romance, don't like reality TV, and particularly don't like books that are supposed to be "fun and feminist" (I'm all for the feminist, but not so much for sassy comebacks and discussions about whether makeup is empowering).

Anyways, I was pretty convinced this was going to be a 2-3 star book, but then I found myself devouring it in about two days. As much as I found so many aspects annoying, I was really drawn in to the story. I did like many of the characters, and I wanted to know how things would end up. While certain aspects were pretty predictable, others were a little more out there, so The Shelf did keep me guessing the whole way.

My main issues with the book are just its lack of nuance. I don't understand why the MC would nearly get engaged to a guy who's totally rubbish, just because she's stressed about getting "left behind." Also, the feminist critique of relationships and reality TV wasn't subtle in the slightest. Acton does a good job of including a really varied cast of characters, and of showing the relatable side to even the most annoying of characters. Still, the whole idea of the show, with women on "the shelf" competing to be "the Keeper," it was just so ridiculously sexist as to be essentially unbelievable. (Also, the big question of the book... who actually watched that show???)

Essentially, I'm very much not the target audience for this book, so it frustrated me in lots of ways, but Acton also managed to hook me with a story that I really didn't want to like at all, so... a solid 4 stars it is.

Goodreads review:

11 Jan 2021

When I started this book, I thought that I wasn’t going to like it but I thoroughly enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down Very entertaining and had me laughing out loud at various times . The characters are extremely likeable. Anyone who enjoys reality tv will relate to the goings on in the story. A bit of escapism during lockdown. Give it a go.

08 Jan 2021

St Regulus Sam D

Although the subject matter may seem trivial, the messages behind the book are far from such. The book is definitely a quick holiday read and the Big Brother/reality TV style might irritate some people, but I got into it and couldn't wait to find out the ending. 5 Stars for lockdown entertainment ☺️

22 Dec 2020


Amy has been in a relationship with her boyfriend for two years but is not sure where it’s going. She is desperate not to be left on the “shelf” (hence the title), especially as all her friends seem to be settling down and having families. When her boyfriend says that he has booked a dream holiday to an undisclosed destination, Amy is convinced that this is it – the moment she had been waiting for and that he is going to propose. The reality is somewhat different, in fact very different indeed!! The book follows the progress of six women and their struggle to either come to terms with, or break away from, the norms which society expects of them regarding life partners, marriage, children, a woman’s role in a relationship etc. They learn how to examine themselves and decide what is right for them. It’s a journey of self-discovery.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a unique premise and is written in a very easy to read, jaunty style. Don’t however be fooled into thinking that a jaunty style equates to a superficial content. If you can see beyond the banter there are hidden depths to this book. It tackles a number of rarely discussed issues and raises a multitude of thought-provoking questions surrounding them. These include an expose of the exploitative nature of Reality TV as well as a debate about the pressure put on individuals (women in particular) to conform to society’s perceived norms. More specifically, the expectation that, in order to be fulfilled, women need to have a long-term partner (preferably a husband) and produce 2.4 children. Those who do not conform to this ideal are in danger of committing the heinous crimes of making those around them feel uncomfortable, alienating themselves from respectable society and condemning themselves to a life of loneliness and solitude. This is a very clever, interesting, perceptive and intelligent book, so much so that it almost comes into the category of a self-help book for those who have become obsessed with conforming to peer pressure in the area of relationships.

I am struggling to find anything to criticise about this book, but somehow can’t bring myself to give it 5 stars. Perhaps I have just highlighted an example of a way in which I conform to peer pressure by being reluctant to award 5 stars to anything short of a Penguin Classic! Deary me.

I would strongly recommend this book to almost everyone. Even if it has no bearing on your current situation, it is still a good read. I do realise that some people do not like a jaunty writing style, but it does grow on you as the book progresses. Enjoy!!

29 Nov 2020

St Regulus AJ

Sorry, not a book I could relate to at all.

25 Nov 2020


A really funny novel with contemporary themes. Was a little too trivial for my liking but one we can recommend to out students and any lover of reality television.

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