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.
For the most part I enjoyed Althea & Oliver. The writing is superb and I was hooked by the first chapter. However, I wasn’t hooked for very long. By page 150 I was slowing down, the plot was at a standstill. I became bored and it took me over two weeks to reach page 300. The writing was not the problem; the plot just wasn’t engaging enough for me to continue. But I did and I’m satisfied with the ending and when I look back this wasn’t bad at all. Told in both Althea and Oliver’s point of view this 400 page book moves at a slow pace thus easier to see the character growth.
I found I was really rooting for Althea and Oliver to be a couple. I felt bad for her and wanted to slap Oliver in the face for leading her on so many times. That being said, Althea did some questionable acts which made circumstances understandable for Oliver’s standpoint. I did enjoy reading Oliver’s perspective to see why and how he felt towards Althea. They both worked my nerves but Oliver a little more.
I didn’t care for the side characters, especially Coby and the rest of the gang from her neighborhood. I liked the friends she made in NY more but the type of relationship she formed with them is hard to come by in real life so I found it hard to believe. But honestly, anyone was better than Coby. I could not stand him.
Overall, I’d recommend this to contemporary, high school setting, coming of age novel lovers. Keep in mind this read isn’t for everyone because it includes (technically speaking) rape scenes, the act of dropping out of school, casual sex and keg parties. I'd give Althea & Oliver 3 out of 5 flowers.
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Review written by Mimi Zane