A debut offering, Althea & Oliver takes the coming of age theme and turns it on its ear. Moracho has penned a story with messy characters and a conclusion that feels somehow unsatisfying, but then you realize it couldn’t have ended any other way.
Althea and Oliver have been friends for years, ten or more actually, and they are the epitome of opposites attract. Where Oliver is a fighter and tough, Althea is softer and quieter, more in touch with her feelings: and those feelings tell her that Oliver is her ‘choice’. For his part, Oliver is content with the friendship and wants nothing more. And then he starts to fall ill, succumbing to a sickness that causes him to sleep for long periods of time. He knows something is desperately wrong with him, and Althea doesn’t seem to understand that.
Althea is obsessed with Oliver: she wants more, as in a happily ever after, and her poor choices to achieve that end, with only Oliver and her obsession at the center of these decisions show her slow decline. Oliver’s path was always different from Althea’s: she just couldn’t or wouldn’t see it: he wanted adventure and to see the world, break free from their small town and leave childhood friendships in his rearview mirror.
Raw, emotionally challenging and often difficult, we see a series of bad choices made for the wrong reasons on Althea’s part, and her willingness to stumble forward repeating old mistakes until finally all of the effort shows itself as futile. Refreshing in that the story takes us on a path where the characters grow into what they NEED to be for themselves, not everyone gets what they believe they desire, and the revelations are so gradual for the characters yet evident to readers that you can’t help but sigh at the next bad choice.
Gritty, occasionally dark and certainly plain spoken, Althea and Oliver will appeal to teens that are familiar with (or are themselves) reaching that point in life where the forces that drive them may be pushing them away from those people and places that are most familiar.
Title: Althea and Oliver
Author: Cristina Moracho
Genre: Teen Reads
Published by: Penguin, Viking
Source: Penguin First To Read
Audio Length: 11 Hours: 13 minutes
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ AllRomance ♦ iTunes ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦Audible
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.
A copy of this title was provided via Penguin First To Read for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.