Review: Althea and Oliver

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Title: Althea and Oliver

Author: Cristina Moracho

Publisher: October 9, 2014

Publication Date: Viking Juvenile

Goodreads / Author’s website / Author’s twitter

I found this at my school library while I was taking one of my classes there for independent reading on Wednesday. I had no idea it was so recent but when I found out that it was supposed to be published just this month, I knew I had to review it.

A brief summary from the author’s website:

What if you live for the moment when life goes off the rails—and then one day there’s no one left to help you get it back on track?

Althea Carter and Oliver McKinley have been best friends since they were six; she’s the fist-fighting instigator to his peacemaker, the artist whose vision balances his scientific bent. Now, as their junior year of high school comes to a close, Althea has begun to want something more than just best-friendship. Oliver, for his part, simply wants life to go back to normal, but when he wakes up one morning with no memory of the past three weeks, he can’t deny any longer that something is seriously wrong with him. And then Althea makes the worst bad decision ever, and her relationship with Oliver is shattered. He leaves town for a clinical study in New York, resolving to repair whatever is broken in his brain, while she gets into her battered Camry and drives up the coast after him, determined to make up for what she’s done.

Their journey will take them from the rooftops, keg parties, and all-ages shows of their North Carolina hometown to the pool halls, punk houses, and hospitals of New York City before they once more stand together and face their chances. Set in the DIY, mix tape, and zine culture of the mid-1990s, Cristina Moracho’s whip-smart debut is an achingly real story about identity, illness, and love—and why bad decisions sometimes feel so good.

Oliver begins to suffer from Kline-Levin Syndrome, a real sleep disorder that disrupts his life, his family, and his relationship with his best friend Althea. I don’t want to give too much away, but essentially the heart of the book is how the characters deal with this situation and how they change in the process.

This book is gutsy. It’s raw, it’s painful, and it’s hard to read at times because it’s so real. It’s about friendship and lust and love and everything in between. Moral lines are blurred, decisions seem out of individual control, and the book never goes in the direction you think it will. All of the characters are messy and flawed but I rooted for them throughout the novel anyway.

I don’t have much more to say. Althea and Oliver completely blew me away. The content, the style, the whole reading experience – I recommend this YA book to anyone who wants to dive headfirst into an intense study of life and love.

5 out of 5 stars.

Tara

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