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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.
Althea & Oliver was a book I had never heard of when it was first mentioned to me. I had no idea what it was about and when I looked it up I was immediately intrigued. I’m a sucker for best friend kind of love stories. It honestly is one of my favorite book plots. But upon reading Althea & Oliver I quickly learned it was nothing like your typical best friend love story. It was a book in an entirely different class all together and I really enjoyed it.
Althea & Oliver is about two best friends that have been each other’s other half for 10 years. They have done everything together, been the best of friends, until things start to change. Althea finds herself wanting more from Oliver and Oliver just wants things to stay the same. But when Oliver is stricken with a health problem and Althea does something that she deems unforgivable they both end up on paths they never expected and a journey they will never forget.
Truthfully I didn’t expect this book to be so gritty. When I read the description I got an entirely different picture in my head. I expected it to be a lighter story, a book with two POVs about two friends trying to figure their feelings out. But Althea & Oliver was more than that. The book was about taking a chance and figuring yourself out. It was about the changes that can occur in friendships and as you grow up and how it is okay to grow apart. Each character is on their own journey and although I enjoyed Oliver’s path, I really felt more for Althea. She really was trying to figure out who she was and what her life should be like. She had this all-consuming crush on Oliver and had to figure out how to be without him. She didn’t think very highly of herself and when she hit rock bottom my heart just broke. She was probably my favorite part of the book.
Why did I not give this book a higher rating? I had a couple of issues with some of the real life aspects that I just couldn’t get past. Oliver has this health crisis and it is bizarre, I mean unheard of bizarre, and no one seems to be scared by this. It is almost an afterthought and that really bugged me. It was not something that would happen. A parent is going to be freaked out right from the start and not stop until they have answers. It just didn’t make sense to me. I also had a problem with Althea’s father toward the end. I just didn’t understand his approach to something Althea did. It didn’t seem to fit with a parent, even a lax one.
But even with those two incidents I really enjoyed this book and the emotions it brought on. It isn’t your run of the mill YA friendship turned to love book. There is really a lot more to the story. And the end really was kind of amazing in its own special way. I think this is a book that a lot of people will like and should read. I’m glad it was mentioned to me and that I was able to read it.
Great review. And I’m glad you mentioned the gritty aspect as I am trying to avoid gritty books for the foreseeable future and wouldn’t have expected as much from this one.
I have HEARD of this one but honestly knew nothing about it. From your review though I so think this is a me book! Love friendship books! Officially added to my TBR!
Oh yay I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I really did enjoy how gritty it was and it definitely pulled on me emotions (THE BEST FRIEND THING. Kills me every time) — I can agree that some things put me off just a bit with how the parents reacted, but it wasn’t something that really bothered me TOO much. Will definitely read more from Cristina Moracho in the future!