Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Content warnings: rape, rape jokes, alcohol use, medical disorders, abusive friendship, sex, heterosexual relationships
This book is actually about a star and a half. I rounded up to be nice. Though I constantly waver on lowering it down to a 1 star. This review contains spoilers.
Let me go for the few bits of good I can speak to in this book. I like the minimalist cover. It could have been a lot worse and it wasn’t and I appreciate that. The author was fairly good at writing. Though, minus like one reference to a graduating class in the 90s, this book did not feel like it was written in the 90s.
So that was the good. The bad.
Althea is well written as a teenager but at the same time teenager. And she’s written as such a self absorbed one that she doesn’t give a shit about her mother and barely cares about her dad. Or at least that’s how she came across to me for the latter.
So Oliver is stated as having Kleine-Levine Syndrome and really it reads as taken to the extreme and author did the bare minimum research into the syndrome.
So about the rape joke, there’s the Halloween party interaction:
Coby: “What are you supposed to be?”
Althea: “A date rapist?”
and holy crap was that a terrible joke. Homicidal maniac. Serial killer. Overly stressed teenager. ANY of those would have been better and funnier than what she answered. I mean there’s issues with the first two but it’s still better than making tasteless rape jokes. Especially in a book that you’re marketing to teenagers.
And the biggest clue ever that it was rape from the conversation that happened months after it happened between Oliver and Althea:
“I’m not upset because we didn’t have sex, I’m upset because we did. And you don’t remember, and it’s like it never happened, but it did happen, and you keep complaining because things are different except nothing’s different.” […]
“I feel nauseous. I told you, I said I wasn’t ready–“
“You wanted to,” Althea says stridently.
[…] “You stupid bitch, it wasn’t me! You knew it wasn’t me, you knew I wouldn’t remember, how could you let it happen? I didn’t want to, I told you–“
“Oh no? You didn’t want to? What did you think happened then? Do you think I forced you? Do you think I held you down and made you do it?” […]
“You knew it was a big deal to me,” he says. “You knew I never would have wanted it to happen like that. How could you not tell me? You’ve been lying for months.”
Ignoring the calling her a stupid bitch, I’m going to shout this forever until everyone finally gets this: BODILY REACTIONS DO NOT MEAN CONSENT NOR DO THEY MEAN YOU WANT OR ENJOY SOMETHING. RAPE DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN THAT ONE PARTY WAS HELD DOWN. EXTERNAL STIMULI USUALLY CAUSE BODILY REACTIONS WHETHER YOU WANT THEM OR NOT. And personally, I feel it’s irresponsible of the author to continue this misinformation of “well you were erect and ejaculated so you obviously enjoyed it so shut up”. Had this happened opposite (guy took advantage of girl) you can bet just about everyone would be up in arms about this (which is another issue I have altogether but I’ll address that later).
And then the interaction between Oliver and Will/Kentucky while they’re in the hospital:
“You didn’t–” Kentucky can’t even finish the thought. “Did you?”
Oliver shakes his head. “No, no, it was nothing like that. She wanted to, she’d be wanting to forever. But I told her I didn’t want to, that I wasn’t ready, and she did it anyway. And when I woke up, she didn’t tell me. Not for months. So isn’t that kind of like the same thing?”
“So you’re saying she–is that what you’re saying?”
Oliver winces. I don’t even know what I’m saying.” He remembers Althea screaming at him in the driveway: Christ, I’m not a fucking rapist. He didn’t argue with her, not on that point. Something about the word doesn’t feel right. It’s too broad, not specific enough to describe what Althea did to him. Kentucky can’t even say it out loud. “No, that’s not what I’m saying. Not exactly.
Kentucky looks baffled. “I don’t get it.”
“What don’t you get?”
“Is she ugly or something?”
“Fuck you, she’s beautiful.”
“Listen, I pulled out my dick in front of my mother. AK-47’s little sister is going to need years of psychotherapy. New Jersey got dumped for some infraction he’ll never even know about. That shit is irreparable. You just told me you got laid.”
“But it’s like I wasn’t even there.”
Irate, Kentucky leaps to his feet and points to the door. “New Jersey tried to fuck a window treatment! You fucked your beautiful best friend! What the hell are you doing here, man? Go find this girl and screw her brains out! And this time you’ll remember!”
I get it. Really I do. Teen boys and all. But this is kind of very flippant about everything. Beautiful or not rapists do NOT have a specific look. They look like *EVERYONE* because they can BE everyone.
This review also highlights the rape and does it more eloquently than I ever could.
TL;DR if your friendship with your best friend looks like Althea & Oliver’s it’s not a friendship and you should distance yourself from them.
Not a book I’d highly recommend but if you really have to then I’d check it out from the local library to be honest.
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