Jan 17, 2011

Review - Other Words For Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Other Words For Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
January 11th 2011 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

From the Publisher:
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 stands 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.

When misfortune befalls Blake's family, he pulls away, and Ari's world drains of color. As she struggles to get over the breakup, Ari must finally ask herself: were their feelings true love . . . or something else?

Ari's family situation is nothing less than dysfunctional. Ari's mother constantly caters to her sister Evelyn's fragile state. After the birth of her first child, Evelyn spent 2 months in psychiatric care. Ari's mother will do anything to keep that from happening again. I turn, Ari gets the short end of the stick, always being pushed to the side and having her feelings go unvalidated. Having a noticeably absent father doesn't help the situation. Ari's family comes into money when a relative dies (which they are thrilled about), and Ari's mother feels like Ari needs to increase her odds at getting into a good college. (She doesn't want another daughter of hers to waste her life away) When Ari transfers to a prestigious Manhattan prep school, she is less than thrilled. Ari doesn't have a lot of friends, but she was comfortable at her old school. She was a master at blending in (to the wall). Now she has to worry about having the right clothes and trying not to piss of her best friend, Summer. Summer seems to be the opposite of Ari. Summer says all the right things, has money to blow on the latest fashions, and already has a firm spot on the social ladder at the prep school. Although they are best friends, Summer still has some sort of hold over Ari. Ari goes along with whatever Summer wants and seems to just simply exist. Soon, it is apparent that Summer wears the pants in the friendship and is manipulative. Summer and Ari's mother are two peas in a pod. They both put Ari last and they always seem to have an agenda.

When Summer has better plans, she leaves Ari to fend for herself at school. This is when Ari meets Leigh, a nice girl that dances to the beat of her own drum. Leigh says and does what ever she likes without regard to others. She isn't preoccupied with trying to impress anyone. The two hit it off, and soon Ari has a little thing for Leigh's brother Blake. Blake and Ari begin dating and she soon learns that her family isn't the only one with dysfunctional members. Blake has aspirations of being a firefighter, but his father is too busy paving Blake's way into law - just like him. Air and Blake begin to spend every moment together, forgetting everyone else, and find themselves in a passionate love affair that has no where to go but down.

Reading Other Words was a trip down memory lane. Taking place in the late 80s, I was thrown back into my first love relationships. Although I wan't the exact same age as Ari at that time, I was pretty darn close. Yes, I'm old. There were passages and scenes that made me feel like I was back in my parents house in Chico, California. Although Ari and I didn't have the same upbringing, thank gosh, the emotions that go along with young love are universal.

Although I noticed subtle language differences because of the time setting, I didn't have all of the 80s pop culture references shoved in my face. I didn't read the words leg warmer, TAB, ghetto blaster, banana clip, and Tom Selleck on every page. In fact, I didn't read them at all. This book wasn't written to be a screen play. (Ari danced {insert David Bowie reference here} until the sun came up) Everything just flowed like it was 1995 or even 2002.

Characters were well developed and varied greatly, except for Ari's mother and best friend Summer. The mother and Summer needed to be similar. It showed the pattern of abuse that Ari always endured. (I use the term abuse loosely) The love relationship between Ari and Blake is an intense roller coaster ride. I wasn't sure whether I wanted them to sail off into the sunset together or end it. Their connection is undeniable and we simply have to ride it out with them.

I ran the spectrum of emotions in this book. I was frustrated with Ari's mother, angry at Blake's father, disappointed with Summer, full of worry for Evelyn, and felt just about everything for Ari. This one will keep you up way past your bedtime. Best contemporary I've read in a long time!

5 stars!