Review: Althea & Oliver

Saturday, February 27, 2016
Title: Althea & Oliver
Author: Cristina Moracho
Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publication Date: October 9, 2014
Publisher: Viking Books
Purchase Links: 

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.

I’ve read some reviews on this one, and I feel like most people either hate it or love it. I think I’d place myself somewhere in the middle, because I’m not really sure how I feel at this point, but here goes… (spoilers ahead; sorry, it’s hard to write about the book without the details)

First of all, there’s the issue of rape (so many have spoken up on this), and I agree that it was horrible that Althea hardly even felt any remorse about the fact that she took advantage of Oliver. That’s what annoyed me most about her, plus how whiny she tended to get. I’m not quite into her whole “rebellious teen” phase either. It just seemed like all she cared about was for things go back to normal (when they obviously couldn’t), and she always acted like she was the victim, that Oliver was the one who hurt her so it wasn’t right that he was mad. :/ She was selfish in a way that made it hard to relate to her. Even her decision at the end of the book was ridiculous to me. I don’t have much comment about Oliver because he was asleep for the most part, and I think that kind of hampered his character development.

I actually think the novel is quite well-written, and it was fairly interesting to read. I don’t feel like the part about Althea living with a bunch of random kids was all that realistic, or that it was even a “cool” thing, although it was passed off as one. What I do like is that the ending was rather unconventional despite it not so much being able to tie up all the loose ends of the story.

Overall, Moracho’s Althea & Oliver is an easy read, and even though it is slightly centered around a sensitive topic that you may have a strong reaction to, the writing can definitely be counted on to pull you back in.


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