Monday, March 7, 2016

REVIEW: Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho

Althea and Oliver have been neighbors and best friends since they were six. She's the artist and quick to react fist-fighting aggressor; whereas, he's always been the scientific peacekeeper. Maybe it's always been inevitable that their friendship could be more; but what happens when life intervenes and the person always there to keep you in check just isn't?

It's the tail end of junior year and Oliver is acting strange.  He's exhausted for no reason and as the symptoms escalate he bounces between normalcy, periods of semi-conscious mania and marathon sleeps lasting weeks at a time.  Without Oliver, Althea is lost and more than a little confused. She wants to be more than just friends but a choice made with which Oliver then has no memory shatters their relationship.  With little choice but to travel to NYC seeking medical answers, Oliver leaves home and Althea behind. She follows determined to set things right even if it means letting go.

Warning! Spoilers ahead!

Althea & Oliver is probably one of those books that might not have necessarily been on my radar but I'm glad it was mentioned on the YALSA list-serve.  There are a number of YA fiction books which delve into the theme of rape, coping and accountability but very few that explore it from a male perspective. Furthermore, none that I know of currently that include the male protagonist as victim rather than aggressor.

Moracho explores a thought provoking situation with respect to these characters and the bigger picture relating to trust and consent. I do have to say that I was uncomfortable with the novel's treatment of the situation and the conclusion.  Had the roles been reversed, I don't think a female protagonist would have processed the event in the same manner.

As a whole, this is a novel about identity, friendship, illness and love.  I recommend this for older readers and for those who like edgy, realistic fiction (i.e. Ellen Hopkins, Rainbow Rowell. Laurie Halse Anderson). I enjoyed the 90s vibe and like that even after finishing the read that I keep coming back to the story, the writing, and the characters to think about what happened, how the story ended and what it made me feel.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter:  @cherielecrivain


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