ABCs of ARCs

Althea & Oliver

Cristina Moracho

Posted: March 22, 2016

The A to Z of You and Me

I have a love affair with young adult fiction; I love the characters, the plots, the cheesy romances that are inventible, but let me make one thing clear, I love young adult fantasy/sci-fi. Reality young adult can be good too, I admit, but sometimes I come across one that is just too… whiney? Too teenager-y for lack of better words. It puts me off the genre, making me crave adult sanity, or at least a good fantasy read. Althea & Oliver was that book.

Please note there are slight spoilers ahead. I try hard not to include them in these posts, but it’s difficult to explain what went wrong with this book otherwise.

The basis: Althea &Oliver is a young adult coming of age story slash bad romance between two childhood best friends in the grungy part of the 90s. Althea is tall, blonde, and troubled with a professor for a dad. Oliver is a normal kid with an abnormal illness: he has episodes where he falls asleep and stays asleep for weeks on end (this is a real thing called Kleine-Levin Syndrome). During these episodes, Oliver will “wake-up” and preform various, often bad, activities without being aware.

We follow Althea and Oliver through the book as they break the boundaries of their friendship sliding into romance. Althea wants things to change, Oliver does not, causing a friction, to an eventual breaking point. During one of Oliver’s episodes towards the beginning-middle of the book, Althea is watching Oliver while he sleeps. He wakes up briefly, but is not himself and Althea recognizes this, yet she has sex with him (for the first time). He later does not recall it, and she neglects to tell him for months. Once the secret is out it leads to a downward spiral of the characters and the book.

Let’s get the hard bit out of the way. Some will say it wasn’t rape—he was willing, even though he wasn’t aware of it. Sorry, but this was rape (of a sort). Which, it’s a book, it can happen, but the aftermath was treated poorly and often made light of. This was unacceptable, especially considering there is a large stigma surrounding male rape.

Even beyond that, this was a struggle of a read. The beginning isn’t too bad—I enjoyed the chemistry between Althea and Oliver; it was cute and loving in just the right way, with teasing and little heart flutters. The backdrop of the 90s was a nice change (although did no one check ids in the 90s? There are a lot of extremely drunk teenagers running around this book). I could even overlook the weird obsession with mentioning that they lived in Wilmington, North Carolina on every other page (One or two mentions of the location setting once then move on, please). But after a while, the book turned downhill.

Nothing happens. Oh alright, things happen, people run away, but any action felt moot and forced.

It’s a book about two teenagers—one who is suffering from a condition that know one really knows why it occurs and another who falls into the wrong crowd, makes a few poor choices, and whines a lot. Oliver is a decent character and I didn’t mind reading his parts, but Althea is a frustrating character. She’s the type of teenager that makes old people (and me) shake their fist. I understand that she is lost, but she destroys her friendship, runs away, and ends up drinking through most of the book with weak reflections on life patterned through the writing that even John Green would shake his head at.

Teens are angsty. Teens have a lot of feelings. We all have a lot of feelings. This book had too many feelings. Too many teenagers wandering around doing whatever they want. I get that this happens. People live, they party, they have drama and love and hate and run away to find themselves. Good for them. But if you’re going to write a book about it, please make it more interesting. The plot with Oliver was the only thing carrying the book, but even that was thrown in with too many sexist remarks. The whole thing felt as though it was trying too hard to get into the heads of teenagers and missing the mark—everything was extreme in all the wrong ways with no great revelations to back them up.

Maybe teens liked it. Maybe some adults liked it. For me, it was meh. There are better reflections of youth out there. And some with a side of magic.