Sunday, September 28, 2014

Althea & Oliver

Moracho, C. (2014). Althea & Oliver. NY: Viking.

YA /Realistic Fiction

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Cristina Moracho is a great writer whose story sent me flipping pages to find out what would happen next. Kudos to her for having the gift! Did I like the story? Yes. The complexity of the relationship between lifetime best friends Althea and Oliver was fascinating and realistic, dripping with teenage angst. BUT. . . (and as Pee Wee Herman would say, there are some big buts here) there were a number of puzzling distractions that didn't seem necessary to move the story forward, and what was supposed to be realistic was often unrealistic.

The 90s setting gives the author some leeway in depicting what is the norm, BUT it was the frequency and intensity of the underage drinking that seemed out of place in its normalcy as part of the main characters' lives. There was a bit of a disconnect to me between what was happening and that these were sixteen and seventeen year olds doing it. Advance them two or three years, then yeah, it is more believable and realistic, but still not really necessary.

Along the same lines, I understand that the two main parent-child relationships are unique, BUT it was a stretch for me to believe the behaviors of (or lack of) the parents in these particular situations. For example, I can't imagine any parent would put a homebody seventeen-year-old daughter in a car alone to drive herself 1800 miles across the country, and further, not to check-in on her or coordinate anything with the parent on the other end. Even accepting that could happen - despite the fact that the parent is well-to-do and could easily afford a plane ticket - to put her in the car with no cash, no gas card, no inquiries about where she might sleep along the route -- this just didn't work for me. And this must work for the story to progress.

It is hard to be specific without giving spoilers, BUT there are numerous other situations that don't hold up including school expulsion, serving the homeless, the cost of living (even living badly) in Brooklyn, and even the protocol with hospitalized minors.
Readers have to suspend their disbelief a lot (or simply not grasp how these things work/worked in the real world of the 90s) in order for the plot to unfold as it does. BUT, a plot does unfold, and it's a good one, and I don't regret a minute I spent with this book. 

The language is rough with lots of F-Bombs dropped from page one. There is considerable underage drinking and binge drinking, self-abusive behaviors, and sex between minors, which was somewhat graphic (and what was described was perplexing to this reader), and kids clearly crying for help and no one to answer the call. As such, this book is probably more suited to mature young adults, who would likely need to be older than the characters in the book to grasp the deeper meaning in the story.

Thank you to Penguin First to Read for providing me a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review -- the only kind I give.

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