Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho

Reviewed by Rebecca, Case Memorial LibraryAlthea & Oliver

Though Althea and Oliver are polar opposites, they have been inseparable since their first meeting at the age of six. At the close of their junior year, just as Althea begins to realize she wants to be more than friends, Oliver experiences the onset of Kleine-Levin Syndrome, a rare illness that causes him to go to sleep for weeks at a time. To further complicate matters, his episodes come on rapidly and at awkward, potentially-relationship-changing moments. During his second episode, Althea makes the “worst bad decision” that ruins her friendship with Oliver and sends her into a downward spiral of destruction. When Althea discovers Oliver has left to participate in a KLS study in New York City, she creates a ruse to follow him and set things right.

I will admit I’ve had a difficult time writing this review, especially considering that this book has been so highly praised. I was ready to love this book. The prose is beautifully written, but that’s about all I have to say that’s positive. I keep wondering, am I missing something here?

Althea’s “bad decision” is SERIOUS and it deserves more attention than it receives. Instead, it’s treated so casually that I can’t help but view it as a plot device to create a rift between Althea and Oliver. Once they do separate, the story is not only unrealistic, it’s also pretty lackluster. I get the impression this was meant to be a character-driven novel (mainly because virtually nothing happens for 150 pages) but it just doesn’t work. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to care about a self-important, impetuous, whiny rich girl whose great epiphany is that she doesn’t have to define herself in relation to her crush.

Voice and setting were misses for me as well. The dialogue read more to me like pretentious, hipster 30-somethings than precocious teenagers. Aside from the Brooklyn scenes, I found myself reading for any evidence of time or place to the point of distraction.

I’d be disappointed if this got a Printz nod. The beautiful prose just wasn’t enough for me to overlook what I thought were major flaws. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have finished it if it weren’t for this committee.

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2 thoughts on “Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho

  1. Geri Diorio

    Rebecca, I am with you 100%. If the genders had been swapped on these characters, can you IMAGINE the hue & cry about this book?
    As it is, her BAD decision and stalkin…I mean following him to NYC are horrid enough.

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  2. Rebecca Harlow

    Geri, That’s EXACTLY what I thought. I can’t even imagine if the roles were reversed and then we were asked as readers to care for more than half the book about whether or not he finds himself. I’m horrified that this even got published.

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