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Tash Hearts Tolstoy Kindle Edition
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An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: There are, as of right now, three YA books I wish I'd written that I often call "the books of my heart." This is one of them. I was drawn to Tash Hearts Tolstoy by the mention of a literary-inspired web series. Sometimes my gut instinct telling me a book sounds phenomenal is wrong; sometimes it is right.
Tash as a protagonist was wonderful. She grew in little ways and acted like a teenager to me. She tried to be a good kid and a kind person, and I appreciated that. The cast of supporting characters is a bit large, between Tash's parents, her sister, Thom (the crush), her best friends, Jacklyn (Jack) and Paul, and the cast of the web series. I did have trouble keeping some of the more minor characters straight, but Tash Hearts Tolstoy focused nicely on Tash, her family, Jack, Paul, and Thom. The friendship between Tash, Jack, and Paul was great. It wasn't idealized and perfect; Jack frustrated Tash at times (in fact, she frustrated me), but I think that comes with the growing pains of being seventeen/eighteen. I called certain spoilery things about Paul from the start, but I think I liked where that plotline went at the end.
The web series bits are great fun, and I wish Unhappy Families was real. The author previously worked on a web series, so her firsthand experience shows and really makes for authentic descriptions. Tash gives a lot of information all at once explaining how the show came to be, but it didn't feel like info-dump. Sometimes it's good to reveal all the information at once, just so readers aren't confused.
Tash Hearts Tolstoy is also about Tash watching her older sister, Klaudie, handle the summer between graduation and college, and then figuring out herself how her plans for the future might be changing. I liked how the Zelenka parents encouraged Tash to pursue her dreams...just reasonably. I also felt like I got to know her mom and dad pretty well, and they were great parents for a YA book.
It surprised me how long it took to get to the Golden Tubas awards show, but that ended up being the climax of the book, which worked nicely. Thom fits into the conflict, and I wasn't feeling too weird about him until then, so maybe a few hints earlier on might've been nice (besides Tash's friends feeling uncertain about him).
As far as I know, the scenes about Tash's asexuality were good and accurate. It was revealed slowly, with little hints, and I thought the on-page reveal came about quite organically instead of it being a forced thing where Tash is basically just telling the readers.
Another thing I noticed: the tone and narration voice are different from Kathryn Ormsbee's Lucky Few, and I liked the tone in Tash Hearts Tolstoy better. I liked Lucky Few, too, but I connected with Tash Hearts Tolstoy more.
The only things that keeps me from giving this five stars is the amount of foul language (not my thing, y'all) and the focus on Buddhism; I appreciate the religious diversity, but Buddhism just isn't my thing either.
The Verdict: Quiet, but in the best way possible. Also, my desire to read Anna Karenina has grown exponentially.
Tash is like a breath of fresh air. Her voice comes across so clear on the page that it isn’t hard to imagine her as a living, breathing person. Ormsbee has created a character whose greatest strengths tend to work against her. Though driven and imaginative, Tash’s focus can sometimes eclipse the opinions of those around her. Her relationship with her sister Klaudie is a great example of this. Tash is used to being second best. She knows she’s not as smart as her sister and tends to use this difference in intelligence as a way to judge Klaudie. Throughout the course of the novel, Tash and Klaudie’s relationship slowly moves past sibling rivalry. Tash begins to see her sister as an individual with pressures and expectations of her own. She’s struggling just as much as Tash to find out who she is when everyone around her is so sure they know better than herself. This is also the first novel I’ve read with a asexual protagonist and Ormsbee addresses so many aspects of this identity. Tash is still working out how to express who she is while also dealing with feelings of inadequacy and isolation, as well as dealing with erasure and aphobia from those who around her.
The minor characters in Tash Hearts Tolstoy are so well-developed, but also leave room for further exploration. Jack is one of the most moody characters I’ve come across. In many way, she’s the opposite of Tash. More introvert than anything else, Jack isn’t one to let other people know how she feels, but she can also be incredibly abrasive and almost too ready to share her opinion. Her personality adds a lot of balance to Tash’s enthusiastic one. Jack’s brother Paul is also a constant in Tash’s life. More gregarious than his sister, Paul is the one that Tash finds it hard not to be honest around. I personally really liked the dynamic between these three characters. They grew up together, but are still figuring out how to relate to one another as each of them grows into adulthood. Aside from Tash’s family, Jack and Paul make up such a huge part of Tash’s world. Her growth as a person hinges on how she relates to these two just as much as how she relates to her sister or parents.
With a charming protagonist and a heavy focus on family and friendship, Tash Hearts Tolstoy is a must-read for the contemporary fan and those who love web series adaptations of classic novels.
I really loved the characters of this book. Tash was well meaning and determined, Jack, though it took a bit for me to warm up to her, was a great friend and sister. Paul was wonderful and amazing and I wish he was real. I enjoyed seeing them film their webseries and read about what goes into making it. I also really liked the fact that Tash was asexual and that it was given a good part of the story to be talked about. It's great having this kind of representation in YA for those struggling.
Overall, Tash Hearts Tolstoy was such a delight. I can't wait to reread it someday and read any future books of Kathryn's.
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