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Read an exclusive extract from IS THIS IT? by Hannah Tovey

At this point in the novel, the main character Ivy Edwards is learning the art of “faking it till you make it”. In between teacher training, job applications and first dates, she’s feeling a bit burned out. And when you feel like that, going for drinks with your two best friends is always a good idea…right? Read on to find out!


Chapter 2


I was late for dinner. I found Mia in the back of the restaurant wearing a crown. I rolled my eyes and sat down.

‘Don’t look at me like that,’ she said, ‘I stole it from the prop cupboard at the theatre. Along with this very chic scarf.’

She dove into her handbag and brought out a hideous fur shawl with a fox tail a mile long.

‘It’s a bit gauche,’ I said.

‘Ives, it’s been dead for years. This is his moment to shine.’

She tossed the shawl over her shoulders and sat back in the seat. A few people in the restaurant were watching her now, which is generally what happens when we go out. It’s not because she gets recognised as an actress; she’s just so enigmatic – like some sort of mythical creature that none of us understand but want to be around all the time.

‘I can’t be late tonight,’ I said, ‘I’m going to my sister’s for lunch tomorrow.’

‘What’s the big deal? It’s only Anna.’

‘She’s being weird about it.’

‘You look worn-out. Was this week that bad?’

‘I found myself standing at the front of the classroom, looking out to the room as if I was watching someone set fire to a house.’

‘You wanted to know what it was like to work in a real classroom. Well, now you know.’

‘I don’t know if I’m cut out for this.’

‘Of course you are, Ivy. You can do anything.’

‘There’s a lot more to consider than I thought.’

‘Like what?’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ I said.

I didn’t want to let on that I had just been told I didn’t have the experience or skills to do the training scheme I wanted to do, and my vision of what next year might look like had been shattered by a man who seemed bored with my very existence.

‘What was the teacher like?’ Mia asked.

‘He seemed to warm to me as the week went on, but—’

‘Playing hard to get, was he?’

‘Did I tell you he dressed like a seventeenth-century aristocrat?’

‘He sounds hot.’

‘He’s not hot. He’s, like, fifty.’

‘Maybe you should broaden your horizons. You’re not having much luck with people your own age, are you?’

‘I’m having no more than three medium glasses of wine tonight,’ I said.

‘I thought we could go out with Dan.’

‘No, I can’t go “out out”.’

‘Nobody mentioned “out out”.’

‘This is you and Dan we’re talking about; there’s no other form of social occasion.’

Mia sat back in her chair and crossed her arms like a petulant child.

‘Would you stop being so boring,’ she said. ‘You’ve not even started your teacher training yet.’

‘I’m not boring. I’m refocusing. Besides, I need to start saving.’

‘Are you back at the museum on Monday?’

‘Yup, back to the gift shop.’

I’d applied for the job at the children’s museum in the hope that I’d be able to engage with local young people, find out what’s important to them. So far all I’d done is sell Jellycat toys and clean broken breadsticks off the floor.

She took my hand from across the table.

‘It’s a job, Ivy – a means to an end. Remember when I had to dress as a giant avocado to promote that new smoothie place?’

‘And what a glorious avocado you were.’

‘Come on, a little dance would perk us right up.’

‘I don’t need perking up. I need sleep.’

She clasped my hand tight. She was like my mother, so beautiful and manipulative – and exasperating.

‘Fine, let’s go out,’ I said. ‘But I want to be in bed by midnight.’

‘In bed by midnight or in an Uber by midnight?’


‘Calm down. I’ll call Dan.’

Dan’s an enigma; one minute he’s flush with cash, spending five grand on a week in a luxury villa in Ibiza, and the next he’s flat-out broke, worrying how he’ll make next month’s rent. Officially, he works in ‘restaurant PR’ (which is ironic, because nobody has ever seen him eat), but we don’t ask in case it’s illegal and, knowing Dan, it probably is.

Later that evening, we met him at a cocktail bar near Angel Tube. He was propped up on a stool with a Martini in hand, wearing a black V-neck T-shirt with a glitter skull emblazoned on the front. He hadn’t noticed us, so I walked over and gave him a hug from behind, accidentally spilling his drink.

‘Ivy! You little shit. You’ve wasted eighteen pounds’ worth of vodka.’


‘Don’t lie; I know you only come here because they’re two-for-one.’

‘I’ve missed you girls!’

‘That T-shirt is loud,’ Mia said.

‘Mia, you look like you’re auditioning for RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ Dan said.

‘This is Alexander McQueen, thank you very much.’

‘How posh.’

‘It’s a knock-off from Camden Market,’ he said, erupting in his distinctive cackle. ‘God, I’m glad to see you both. Alejandro is doing my head in.’

‘Why are you still with him?’ I asked.

‘I’ve told you this, Ivy. He’s very intelligent and has an immaculate penis.’

‘Noah also has an immaculate penis,’ Mia mused. ‘It’s so important to choose a life partner with attractive genitals.’

‘New dress, Ivy?’ Dan asked as we sat down.

‘It’s one of Anna’s. I’ve stolen all her pre-pregnancy wardrobe.’

‘Nice to see you’re finally making an effort, even if it is all second-hand.’

‘Fuck off. I’m trying.’

‘How’s the yoga going?’ Mia asked me.

‘I don’t think I’m doing it right.’

‘It’s not about doing it right,’ Mia said. ‘It’s about connecting with your inner self, achieving a peaceful body and mind – and, most importantly, getting impeccably toned arms like Jennifer Aniston.’

I splayed my arms out. ‘What do we think?’


I laughed.

‘Look at you, transforming your life,’ Dan said. ‘This time last year, you’d have been doing coke with some stranger in a bathroom, mascara running down your cheeks, lamenting that posh twat Jamie.’

‘Shut up and order me a wine, please,’ I said.

‘Any preference on colour or size?’

‘White. Large.’


The barman served me three tequila shots. I necked one before asking him for three double vodka sodas. Mia had dragged us to a karaoke bar, and I was flagging.

A man nudged in next to me. He looked down at the shots, then up at me.

‘Long week?’ he said.

He was wearing black jeans, but not the skinny sort that all the boys in East London wear. And his shirt didn’t look like it came from a charity shop. He’d rolled the sleeves up to his elbows, revealing lovely toned forearms. I’ve said it before: you can tell a lot about a man from their forearms.

‘They’re not all for me,’ I said. ‘My friends are doing karaoke.’

‘So are mine. I’m trying to escape.’

I liked his hair. Thick, soft, not too styled.

‘Not a lover of karaoke?’ I said.

‘No, not at all. You?’

‘No, especially considering I’ve just paid twenty pounds to sit in a darkened room and watch my friend sing power ballads for two hours.’

He laughed. A sniffly young man stumbled into us as he made his way to the toilet to do his next line.

‘Why is this place full of nineteen-year-olds?’ he said to me. ‘And why aren’t they wearing socks? If you’re going to wear proper shoes, wear proper socks.’

‘Wow, I’ve never heard someone be so passionate about socks before.’

He smiled.

‘What’s your name?’


‘Hi, I’m Scott.’

He put his hand out to shake mine. Soft hands. Like his hair. ‘Nice to meet you, Ivy.’

I liked the way he said my name.

‘You have a very sing-song accent,’ he said.

I tried to remain calm as I realised he might actually be flirting with me.

Diolch yn fawr iawn.’


‘That’s the only Welsh I know,’ I said. ‘Well, that and tractor.’

‘What’s tractor in Welsh?’


His face creased up and I thought about what it would feel like to kiss him.

‘Where are you from in Wales?’

‘We live near the Gower. Do you know it?’ ‘No, but I was conceived in Wales.’

I laughed.

‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘I don’t know why I told you that.’

‘No, thank you. I like to know where people were conceived.’

His face gave the impression that he was listening to every single word. It was unsettling.

The barman brought my drinks over and Scott ordered four pints.

‘What do you do?’ he asked.

‘I’m a teacher.’

‘Ah, my uncle’s a teacher.’

‘How about you?’ I asked, before he had the chance to see right through me.

‘I work in advertising.’

‘That’s cool. Anything I might have seen?’

‘Last year’s Christmas advert . . . It was with an international female singer who I can’t name for legal reasons. There were mint chocolates involved.’

It took me a few seconds before I realised who he was referring to.

‘Oh my God, yes! I loved that advert.’

‘I’m glad someone did. It cost me my soul.’

‘Was it that bad?’

‘Yes, Ivy. It was that bad.’

We stood there for a moment. I couldn’t think of anything else to say. He had such delicious dimples.

‘Sorry, I should let you get back to your friends,’ he said.

‘Yes, she’s probably halfway through the Celine Dion catalogue; I couldn’t possibly miss out on the rest.’

He scanned my face.

‘You’ve got a cracking smile, Ivy.’


‘Yes. What’s so funny?’

‘Nothing, it’s just . . . “cracking” is a very Welsh thing to say.’

‘Is it? My gran used to say it all the time.’

‘Yeah, my grandad did too.’

‘Well, Ivy, it was nice to meet you.’

‘You too.’

I walked away feeling better than I’d done in months, which says a lot about recent times.

‘Where the fuck have you been?’ Dan asked. He was sprawled out on the sofa with Mia beside him, singing along to Bonnie Tyler.

‘I was at the bar. There was a man.’

‘Oh, a man!’

‘He looked a bit like Hugh Grant in the nineties.’

‘Did you talk to him?’


‘Did you get his number?’


‘What the fuck is wrong with you? You haven’t had sex since two thousand and one.’

‘Take the bull by the china,’ Mia said. She had finally stopped singing and was twirling the microphone lead in her hand.

‘What?’ I said.

‘The bull by the china . . . it’s an expression.’

‘Take the bull by the horn is the expression, Mia. Bull in a china shop is something entirely different.’

Mia looked like I’d asked her to explain quantum theory. Journey came on. Dan grabbed my arm and walked me out of the room and back to the bar, where I saw Scott, still waiting for his pints.

‘Is that him?’ Dan asked.

I nodded.

Dan touched him on the shoulder. ‘Scott, is it?’



‘Hi. You OK?’ Scott asked.

‘Yes, Ivy here would like to give you her number.’

‘Is that right, Ivy?’ Scott said.

‘I figured it would be good to find out where the rest of your family members were conceived.’

His face broke out in an enormous grin. We locked eyes as he got his phone out and asked me to type my number in.

‘Grand, Ivy. I’ll text you.’

‘Great. Have a good night.’

‘You too.’

I was elated. Maybe I would be having sex this decade.


Dan and I sat in the corner of our private karaoke booth as Mia got started on the Dreamgirls soundtrack. We’d finished the vodkas and were now on to our second bottle of Prosecco, most of the contents of which were spilt all over the burgundy faux leather sofas.

Dan asked me to lay my head in his lap.

‘I want to connect with you, Ivy. Tell me everything.’

‘What do you want to know?’

‘I want to know about you,’ he said, prodding me with his finger. ‘What’s going on with you?’

I was drunk enough that all my insecurities were bubbling just under the surface, as they always are at 1 a.m. in a karaoke booth.

‘What if this is a mistake?’ I said.

‘What is?’

‘Me, trying to be a primary school teacher. What if Dilys is right?’


‘You know, the voice in my head.’

‘She’s a fictional construct, you twat.’

‘I named her after a girl I knew from school. Did you know Dilys means “genuine” in Welsh? Which is ironic, because the Dilys I knew was a two-faced backstabber who stole my boyfriend in Year Nine.’

I got up to get some more Prosecco, than lay back down in his lap.

‘She speaks to me when nobody else is around. It’s like she sees into my soul, Daniel.’

‘Babe, you’re talking about your brain in the third person.

That’s the fucking issue here, not you changing careers.’

I looked to Mia for consolation, but she was busy gearing herself up for the high note of ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’.


‘What if the children hate me?’ I said.

‘Some of them will.’

‘What if the staff hate me?’

‘Some of them will. You can be really annoying sometimes.’

Still feeling the high from my first successful flirt in months, I got up from Dan’s lap, stood tall, and denounced Dilys. ‘I will not let Dilys get to me.’

‘Fuck Dilys.’

‘I deserve to be happy.’

‘You do.’

‘Yes, it’s taken me thirty-two years to figure out what I want to do with my life. Who fucking cares! I can reinvent myself every bloody year if I want to!’

‘You’re a warrior, Ivy!’ Mia shouted into the microphone. ‘Come on, get up here and say it with me.’

Dan and Mia helped me stand up on the sofa. We stood in a line, holding hands.

‘Repeat after me,’ Mia said, ‘you are brave.’

‘I am brave.’

‘You are powerful.’

‘I am powerful.’

‘You are a lion.’

I guzzled the last of my Prosecco and put the glass down. ‘I’m a fucking lion!’

We jumped up and down on the furnishings, then Dan went to get another round.

I looked at my phone: 1.47 a.m. There was a message from Anna at 11 p.m.: ‘Don’t be late tomorrow.’ I got back up on the sofa with Mia and started singing ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’.