Review: The Shelf is an eye-opening story about  our obsession with settling down

I started watching Love Island for the first time during lockdown because I needed some easy, reality TV to distract me from the ongoing pandemic. I’ve always been against shows like Love Island, especially because of the damaging messages they send out, but when my sisters tuned into it at 9pm every night, I was sucked in.

It was easy, light and mind-numbing entertainment that my brain was craving during lockdown, but after a couple of episodes, I started to feel guilty. The show completely went against what I believed in and after reading The Shelf by Helly Acton, I now know I was right to switch off.

The Shelf is a gripping, eye-opening and clever read that will have you hooked from page one. The story follows copywriter Amy, who ends up on reality show The Shelf, where she is cruelly dumped by her awful boyfriend in front of millions of people on live TV, alongside five other women.


A post shared by The Shelf (@theshelfuk) on

What’s so special about The Shelf is the fact that the contestants point out just how wrong the show is. They stand up for themselves and speak out about the pressure women are under to have a maternal instinct and be the perfect housewife. They refuse to get makeovers, they speak up about the pressure to have kids and shut down the loving wife stereotype that many men still believe in. The girls on The Shelf are the reality TV contestants we need in our lives. Quite like Maura Higgins, they speak their minds and do not let men get away with mistreating them, speaking poorly of them and making them out to be ‘crazy’.

The Shelf opened my eyes about society’s obsession with coupling up and settling down. It feels like once a woman reaches a certain point in her life, she should have a ring and bump, but that isn’t everyone’s dream. Just take a look at the Royal Family for example. Once Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married, the countdown for when they’d announce a pregnancy was on. Bets were made, tabloids speculated and people gossiped every time the former actress looked like she gained a measly pound.

Every woman does not have to follow the same traditional path. Every woman doesn't want to be a mum and that’s perfectly fine. And news flash, some women actually enjoy being single. Pressuring a woman to have a family is a major problem in our society that is highlighted in this phenomenal and truthful story. 

The Shelf is a must-read for women who are tired of being asked when they’re going to settle down and when they’re going to ‘pop one out because the clock is ticking’.

This witty and heart-warming read helps us see how important it is to follow the path that suits us and not the one society approves of. You only get one chance at life so why waste it impressing others?

The Shelf by Helly Acton is published by Zaffre. You can purchase a copy here or why not download the audiobook and listen to Normal People star Daisy-Edgar Jones tell this wonderful tale?



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