Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Other Words for Love

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Other Words for LoveOther Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ariadne "Ari" Mitchell is a sensitive, creative and romantic girl on the verge of adulthood and she still believes that perfect love must exist somewhere even if it doesn't happen in her family. Ari's mother, Nancy, constantly pushes her to do better in school--even when she's doing fine--to be a great artist, and to be a career lady--but nothing too high and mighty. Meanwhile, Ari's mother constantly reminds Ari not to be like her sister, Evelyn, who got "in trouble" just before she turned 18 and had to marry her then-boyfriend, Patrick Cagney. Poor Ari has been crushing on Patrick for about seven years when the story begins, and even though she knows it's awful to ogle her sister's husband, she can't tear her eyes away from those washboard abs.

As if things weren't complicated enough in Ari's life, she also has an increasingly complicated relationship with her friend, Summer Simon. She and Summer have been close for a long time, but Summer has always been the richer, hipper, smarter and prettier one. Whatever anyone wants to do, Summer has done it first, and she loves to let Ari know it. When Ari's family unexpectedly comes into a generous inheritance, Ari gets to attend the same fancy school Summer has been attending: Hollister Academy. At Hollister, Ari befriends Leigh, a quiet girl from a powerful family with a dark and mysterious past. Leigh also happens to have two handsome cousins: Del and Blake. Ari develops crushes on both of them, but ends up falling into an intense, all-consuming relationship with Blake.

Other Words for Love is marketed as if it's a romance, but I don't think that does it justice. While first love is an important theme in the book, the most powerful one for me was Ari's journey from being a girl who walks on egg shells and ties herself in knots to make everyone around her feel okay to being a woman who knows what she wants and doesn't need external validation from everyone else to believe in herself.

What amazes me is this novel is narrated by Ari in first person, but the story is much richer and more complex than what you usually see with such a limited perspective, and yet all the details are spot-on. Lorraine Rosenthal gets into the teenage perspective so well and in such a compassionate way that everything is fresh and surprising, yet completely real.

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