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Radio 2 Book Club - The Cassandra Complex

The next book to be featured on the Zoe Ball Radio 2 Book Club will be The Cassandra Complex, the exciting adult debut novel from multi-million selling Geek Girl author Holly Smale. The book is released on 11 May and Holly will be on the show with Zoe on Tuesday 9 May.

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We have an exclusive extract available for you to read.

The Cassandra Complex

Cassandra Penelope Dankworth is a creature of habit.

She likes what she likes (museums, jumpsuits, her boyfriend Will) and strongly dislikes what she doesn’t (mess, change, her boss drinking out of her mug). Her life runs in a pleasing, predictable order. Until now.

She’s just been dumped.

She’s just been fired.

Her local café has run out of banana muffins.

Then, something truly unexpected happens: Cassie discovers she can go back and change the past.

Now, Cassie should be able to find a way to fix the life she accidentally obliterated. And with time on her side, how hard can it be…?

Selection panel review

The book was selected with the help of a panel of library staff from across the UK. Our readers loved The Cassandra Complex – here are some of their comments:

“Ultimately this is a book about being wired differently, of self-discovery, giving Cassandra the chance to understand that the issues stem from her and that she can try to understand the confusing world around her and build relationships with people. It also allows her to reconnect with the sister she dropped from her life ten years previously and come to terms with her past. Cassandra has been given the tools to understand her differences and the strength to be her and live the life that will make her happy. This is a beautiful book, very well written and well researched. It gives you an insight into how an autistic person might feel, how they try to understand the confusing world and people around them, forever examining their words and actions to see if they have understood correctly and responded in an appropriate way. If this book, whilst completely fictional, can help with understanding just a small part of this then it’s worth reading just for that alone. However, Cassandra is an engaging character for all her differences and you can’t help but fall in love with her and want her to succeed in her journey of self-discovery and forming genuine relationships with those people in her life. The narrative is engaging, the subject matter is informative and makes you question your understanding of autism. I think it would be a great book for book clubs with lots to discuss.”

“Fabulous book. A very enjoyable and fast-moving read. Cassandra time travels through parts of her life many times over her ill-fated four-month relationship with her boyfriend, trying to put right where she went wrong, leaving her dumped every time. In doing so she tries and fails, often very humorously, to do so, often with consequences even worse than the original. Many of Cassandra’s traits and the way she sees the world are down to undiagnosed autism, which she learns about herself late in the story and this makes everything make so much more sense. Her relationships with others including her estranged sister are changed through her time travelling ability and I thought the ending was exactly spot on. Really enjoyed this read and would like to see it get a wide readership. Will recommend this.”

“I really loved how Cassandra learnt more about herself and the world with each go around, trying to make things perfect. She gradually realises that things can’t and shouldn’t be perfect but it takes her some time to process this. I enjoyed how her relationships all made more sense to her over time as she learned not to take things literally, but at the same time she didn’t change who she was. Cassandra retains her unique way of looking at the world but she learns some new ways of understanding things to help her going into the future. There is a lot to talk about with regards to neurodiversity, plus things like what would you change if you could hop back in time. I personally found this book an interesting learning experience especially as it’s written by someone who is neurodiverse.”

About the author

Holly Smale is the internationally bestselling, award-winning author of the Geek Girl and The Valentines teen series, which have sold 3.4 million copies worldwide. She has been shortlisted for several major awards including the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and the Branford Boase award. In January 2021, Holly was diagnosed autistic at the age of 39. Suddenly a lot of things made sense and it is this experience that in part inspired and informed The Cassandra Complex. Holly regularly shares, debates about and celebrates neurodiversity on Twitter and Instagram @holsmale.

A word from Holly

“I am so honoured that The Cassandra Complex has been chosen for The Radio 2 Book Club. If art is a mirror, held up to nature, then – as a late-diagnosed autistic woman – I have often felt like a ghost: seeking my reflection, ripping down dust-sheets and finding…nothing. So, with Cassie and my adult debut novel, I decided to make my own.

We all deserve to live in a world where art reflects the full human experience; where our mirrors are clean, unbroken and honest – even if they are sometimes uncomfortable – and where we can see not just ourselves in them, but the faces of each other. Mirrors that allow us to recognise and understand each other better, and celebrate all the glorious, myriad ways of being human.

I am so grateful to everyone who reads this book, and loves it, and helps to get it into the hands of more people. Through all the years of my Geek Girl publishing, working with librarians has been one of the biggest highlights. The work you do sharing your passion for books is something, as an author, I am so grateful for!

Thank you for helping me pull off the dust-sheet and I hope you love Cassie as much as I do."

Holly x

Get involved

Tune in to the Zoe Ball Breakfast Show to hear the live feature on Tuesday 9 May. You can also listen to the full-length interview on BBC Sounds.

Have you read The Cassandra Complex? You can share your thoughts with us on Twitter using #R2BookClub and you can also follow Holly.

Planning to buy The Cassandra Complex for your group? Buy books from Hive or from and support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no extra cost to you.

Want to make sure you get the latest news? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


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