Hi guys! I know I normally review classics and less recent YA books, but today I'm doing a newer one--Cristina Moracho's amazing realistic fiction novel, Althea & Oliver. I wrote a shorter review that was published in the kid's newsletter put out by The Corner Bookstore (great book selections and a favorite hangout of mine, check it out on 93rd and Madison!). This is the slightly longer version. Althea is tough, impulsive and eager for change. Oliver is pragmatic, sensitive and hoping for things to stay as they always have been. They've known each other since they were six, and improbably, they’re best friends in their junior year of high school. When Oliver starts to succumb to a confusing, nameless illness, change is on the horizon. The lines between healthy and sick and between friendship and romance begin to blur.
Althea and Oliver is set in the 1990s, running from rural North Carolina to gritty New York City and more. The plot is pulse-elevating and tear-jerking, and so intensely detailed that it feels as though you’re sitting with Althea or Oliver as they try to deal with their latest crisis. The characters are true to life and lovable, making you want to reach into the book to help and protect them. The dialogue is witty and realistic.
In all honesty, I cried at least twice while reading this book. Actually, I may have spent the last third of the book in a very teary state. It wasn't all that tragic, but there was something about the way Moracho's writing made me love the characters that made their sadnesses all the more poignant to me. It encouraged me to care deeply about the book, which I think is really important in a good YA novel--or any novel, for that matter. Althea and Oliver is sad–but it’s also funny, suspenseful, heart-warming and true. The book is, overall, impossible to put down.