Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho: Book Review


Synopsis: 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

Date Published: October 19, 2014

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

No. of pages: 364

Date Read: February 23, 2015

Source: A gift from a dear friend


This book is anything but typical.

Do not expect the mushy cheesy type. Do not expect swooning and gushing. Do not expect for the typical love story. Expect what real raw love is. Expect the unconventional affection. Expect that reality isn’t always as beautiful as you hoped it to be, that reality is reality and most often than not, it is ugly.

From the moment I read the synopsis, about two best friends, one wanting more than friendship and is set in mid 90’s with mix tapes and whatnot – I was practically sold! I wanted to read the book, I wanted it so bad. Plus the blurb that said “Althea can’t stop falling in love, Oliver can’t stop falling asleep.” kind of drew me in. This kind of story was what my heart was aching for when I read the synopsis. I just knew there’s no way I am going to pass this one up.

I started reading it the 1st of February and it took me 23 freaking days to finish it. I’m not usually like this, but this book was painfully slow. There are parts that just dragged on and on and still the story was never close to resolution. There are parts that weren’t necessary at all, the novel could definitely do without it. It was well-written, however the writing style was, kind of hard to get into, there are parts that I had a hard time understanding who was actually being referred to. Take this for an instance, in a paragraph two characters were involved, let’s say Valerie and Althea, then the author would use the pronoun she and I was left rereading the whole paragraph as to who that she was referring to. And this didn’t happen once, it happened pretty often, I will be left thinking if I kind of lost my comprehending skills along the way – or maybe the fact that the story didn’t grip me in ways I expected it to can be considered a factor as to why I had a hard time reading it. Also the book did not really highlight the 90s you can actually mistake it to be set today – it was a let down, really.

Althea and Oliver were not your average teenagers, Oliver had this very odd illness and just wanted for things to go back to normal and Althea was this rebellious girl, who constantly craves for Oliver’s attention. Yes, it was as complex as its sounds. I loved Althea’s boldness and stubbornness, just as much as I hated Oliver’s selfishness. The story weaved through this complicated mess of unrequited love. I would like to commend the author’s attempt on veering away from what the majority of people would want to see in a book, The novel offered a new flavor to YA, and I truly admire the author for it. This is a good coming-of-age story. however, as much as I want to force myself into loving it, this book isn’t for me.

Will I be reading more of Cristina Moracho’s work? Yeah, sure. Maybe I would like to see a first person point of view. Maybe then, I could be comfortable with the writing style. All in all, it’s a good book.

Rating: 3 stars

It’s still good and it still hurts.


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