Fiction Book Reviews

Romance | The Shelf | Helly Acton

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We’re delighted to be sharing Elena’s thoughts about The Shelf by Helly Acton.

Book cover The Shelf by Helly Acton

The Shelf by Helly Acton is published by Zaffre and is available to purchase in digital, hardcover and audiobook formats.

Ever feel like you’re losing a race you never signed up for?

Everyone in Amy’s life seems to be getting married, having children and settling down (or so Instagram tells her), and she feels like she’s falling behind.

So, when her long-term boyfriend surprises her with a dream holiday, she thinks he’s going to finally pop the Big Question. But the dream turns into a nightmare when, instead, she finds herself on the set of a Big Brother-style reality television show, The Shelf.

Along with five other women, Amy is brutally dumped live on TV and must compete in a series of humiliating and obnoxious tasks in the hope of being crowned ‘The Keeper’.

While inside the house, will Amy learn that there are worse things than being ‘left on the shelf’?


The Shelf was a total page-turner for me, and I simply couldn’t put it down!

Amy has been in a relationship with Jamie for two years, however we soon learn that it is one-sided. Amy is hanging on to the notion of marriage and children and Jamie revealing himself to be an unpleasant character who belittles her and clearly has commitment and control issues.

She thinks he is going to take her away and propose to her but instead surprises her by entering her onto a reality show called The Shelf – a cross between ‘Love Island’ and ‘Big Brother’, where all but one of the female contestants have been unceremoniously dumped by their partners and are subject to a series of ‘tasks’ with the aim of teaching them how to be better at relationships. There are live evictions and the winner is to be crowned ‘The Keeper’.

This book is in equal parts hilarious, poignant and an easy entertaining read.

The male characters are portrayed unfavourably by being chauvinistic, controlling and unavailable.

The diverse group of women who are locked in the house together form a bond and I loved that each of them has a different character to contribute to the dynamic within the show.

What starts off by being an unpleasant premise turns into a journey of self-discovery for each of them as they go from being humiliated on live TV to empowered by their new-found singledom and realisation that the most important relationship you can have is the one with yourself.

I’m not a fan of reality TV, and this book reminded me why that is. It highlights the trolling, constant judgement and scrutiny that the contestants face, but does so on a hilarious  and addictive way, with some real laugh-out-loud moments.

I enjoyed following along with Amy as she undergoes a transformation and the feminist message is fantastic. A must-read!

Elena's author image

Helly Acton is a copywriter from London with past lives in Zimbabwe, the Middle East and Australia. She studied Law at King’s College London before following a more creative path into advertising. At 26, Helly took a career break to travel in Africa and Asia, before landing in Sydney. Six years and one life-affirming break up later, she returned home and threw herself into online dating in the city. Helly uses this experience as a single woman in her early thirties – torn between settling down and savouring her independence – as a source of inspiration. Helly currently lives in London with her husband, Chris, and their dog child Milo. Twitter : @hellyacton Instagram : hellyactonauthor


I've been blogging about my interests at Jera's Jamboree for 9+ years. My love of reading, crocheting, being out in nature and positive psychology are all things that help me unwind from my role as an Inclusion Lead in a primary school.

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