Thursday, 9 June 2011

Other Words For Love By Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Ari Mitchell feels invisible at her Brooklyn high School. Her hair is too flat, her style too preppy, and her personality is too quiet. And outside school, Ari feels out shined by her beautiful, confident best friend, Summer. Their friendship is as complex and confusing as Ari's relationship with her troubled older sister, Evelyn, a former teenage mom whose handsome firefighter husband fills Ari's head with guilty fantasies.
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When an unexpected inheritance enables Ari to transfer to an elite Manhattan prep school, she makes a wealthy new friend, Leigh. Leigh introduces Ari to the glamorous side of New York - and to her gorgeous cousin, Blake. Ari doesn't think she sands a chance. but amazingly, Blake asks her out. As their romance heats up, they find themselves involved in an intense, consuming relationship. Ari's family worries that she is losing touch with the important things in life, like family, hard work, and planning for the future. Meanwhile, Summer warns her that what she feels for Blake is just an infatuation. Not real love. But Ari's world is awash with new colours, filled with a freshness and an excitement she hasn't felt for years.
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When misfortune befalls Blake's family, he pulls away, and Ari's world drains of colour. As she struggles to get over the breakup, Ari must finally ask herself: were their feelings true love...or something else?
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Other Words For Love was romantic, realistic and raw. Before I read it I thought it would be your usual sweet story of boy meets girl and falls in love but it was so much more than that. It not only explores the dynamics of first love, but also the fragility of friendships and the strength of family.
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Ari is a remarkable character with an immensely strong voice that is honest and very real which makes her instantly likable. What I loved was that she has her insecurities like everybody else but she is also able to see that she has good qualities too. At the start of the book you can see that she is kind of at a crossroads in her life and she isn't sure which way to go. She wants to be a career woman and become a fantastic artist but she also wants a more homely life with marriage and children. She ponders on her future a lot and worries what she do about it. She doesn't want to disappoint her slightly pushy mother who has her heart set on Ari becoming an incredible artist but when she meets Blake her worries about the future seem to disappear as she gets caught up in her intense feelings for him.
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I liked the fact that their romance felt very realistic. Blake is Ari's first love and after years of wishing she had her best friend Summer's courage and flirtatiousness around boys or the love and care her sisters gets from her husband, Patrick, she finally gets to experience first hand both of these worlds with Blake. I liked that they didn't immediately fall head over heels in love and Ari was still a little bit timid around him to begin with.
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Other Words For Love is set in 1980's New York which worked perfectly with the story. It was a time where being a stay at home housewife was no longer a sought after lifestyle and women were beginning to want careers instead of families. Which explains why Ari felt pressure to follow the path towards a career and not be dependent on a male unlike her sister Evelyn, who got married and had her first child whilst still a teenager. It's a case where society can start to mould your thoughts on what you feel you should do with your life instead of what you truly want. It was also the time when AIDs became a prevalent worry and changed many perceptions on casual sex. For all of that, the setting of the 1980's was never in your face. It was more of a subtle backdrop to Ari's story that never felt like it got in the way.
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Every single character in this book is three dimensional. There are no black and white, clear cut characters. They all have their bad and good points, pretty much like a normal human being and they all grow and develop throughout. Ari's parents and family play huge parts in this story. Her mother keeps a close eye on Ari because she wants her to make the most of her future and doesn't want her choosing the same life as Evelyn. Her father is a busy inspector/detective and appears to ignore Ari which makes her feel lonely. However you get the feeling that he cares more than he lets on. I especially loved learning about Evelyn and her jealousy towards her sister even though she loves her husband and children.
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This book has so many qualities to it. It is a powerful and hopeful read but in a subtle way that explores all the different forms of love within families, friendships and relationships. It's about all the people that can come in and out of your life and leave lasting impressions on you and that are never regrettable because they make you who you are. More importantly its about Ari realising that she she should take life as it comes and not get so caught up in what she is or isn't supposed to do according to 'societies rules'. An amazing book that is heartfelt, complex and honest.
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Random Passage: Summer stood up and extended her hand. I remembered all the times that she'd done that before. She'd done it at her sweet sixteen, when I'd hidden in her bathroom because I didn't have the guts to mingle with the crowd of Hollister students in the living room. Summer coaxed me out and stuck with me the whole night, telling everybody, This is my best friend, Ari. That had made me think I might not be so unremarkable.

5 comments:

Kristina said...

Great review! I really wanted to read this one, but kept hearing mixed things about it. I am definitely going to check it out now.

Clover said...

I'm really quite desperate to read this book, especially as I've read such good things about it! Great review.

The Library Owl said...

Thanks Clover and Kristina. You should both definitely pick it up when you can. I really enjoyed it and I love it when you can pick up a YA book and find that there are so many layers to all the characters :)

Midnight Bloom said...

Thanks for the wonderful review and explaining how Other Words for Love goes much more beyond being a contemporary romance novel. I haven't read too many reviews for the novel but it's the first time but the ones that I did didn't seem to give me much of an incentive to take a closer look... but your review wasn't like it and has me thinking like I could be missing out on a great read. Thanks again!

The Library Owl said...

Thanks Midnight Bloom (Liz), that means a lot! Life is so complex and Lorraine Zago Rosenthal didn't take the easy way out and skim over the difficult bits. She made sure she explored all the inner workings of Ari's life and surroundings and it really shows.