My rating in stars: 4,5 stars
My rating in words: LOVED this book!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.
Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.
And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.
Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?
MY THOUGHTS (SPOILER-FREE):
“If it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads,
then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts”
– LEO TOLSTOY, Anna Karenina
This book should be on everyone’s radar. Seriously. I ADORED it. It’s such a fun read in so many ways that I could keep raving about it forever. So why don’t I get started with that?
We have a heteroromantic asexual main character. I repeat, we have ace representation. Romantic ace rep. GREAT romantic ace rep. Did I mention the fabulous ace rep? Because seriously, how many books are out there actually featuring ace characters? I could count them on one hand. And I wouldn’t even need all fingers… We definitely need more ace characters in literature.
So yeah, I did highly enjoy the representation in Tash Hearts Tolstoy. Our main character, Tash, is a heteroromantic asexual, and though her sexuality is not the main focus of the book, it still plays a really big part of the story. She explains more about what it is and what the differences are between sexual and aesthetic attraction, the differences that there can be in how ace people experience their asexuality, the awkardness of coming out, the acephobia that she has to deal with and also the possibilities and difficulties of relationships between asexual and sexual people. I found it all so well done and I just want more of it. Please give me more characters on the ace spectrum, authors! Thanks in advance! Also, let me just say, that wonderful ace rep aside, this story is also so beautifully diverse in so many other ways.
Ace rep and diversity aside, there definitely still are so much more amazing things about this book. Like, Tash is such a fun and relatable main character with her own wonderfully developed character, interests (lists, organisation, and classic literature among them) and character growth. She also has the best (like, seriously, THE BEST) friendship with brother-and-sister-duo Paul and Jack ever since they were little kids. Jack is the stoic best friend who’s not good with emotions or talking about feelings, but always ready to speak her truth. And Paul is a huge fluffball who perfectly balances out this little trio. Their friendship felt so real and relatable and I loved every minute of it.
Another thing that made this book stand out to me? The big focus on Youtube and well, just the big old WWW in general. It’s been so much fun to kind of get a glimpse ‘behind-the-scenes’ of everything going into the making of a Youtube web series, online popularity and everything that goes with it. We have talk of social media, Tumblr GIF’s, hashtags, ship names, hate comments, vlogging, upload schedules and so on, and it’s all just SO MUCH FUN. Seeing as I have no internet fame to speak of myself, I can’t speak for the rep, but it felt real to me and I did see some booktubers praise its’ great rep, so there’s that. And well, I also just really wish that Unhappy Families was a real webseries because I really want to watch it now!
One last thing that this book had going for it, was great family dynamics. Of course, while adapting a story on unhappy families, it would be a pity if it DIDN’T go into a bit more depth into the main characters’ own families. We focus a lot on Tash’s family, and the issues they have, but also the family of Jack and Paul, and I felt that all of this really added to the story.
If I would nitpick about this book, I’d say that I wasn’t always a fan of the pacing. I wanted more of some things and less of other things, but those are just really personal nitpicks. Other than that, I can really only rave about this book. I loved it and I already want to reread it. Definitely one of my favorite contemporaries of 2017!
“I know what I want and what I don’t want. I’ve never wanted sex. Never. I’ve never understood why it has to be in every book and movie and television show ever made. I never figured out why porn is such a huge thing. I’ll be fine if no guy ever takes his shirt off for me. I’m not scared, I just don’t want it.”
“…because how could I be a girl, when apparently all other girls were sexual beings?”
“I guess I mean I always feel like I’m . . . waiting. Waiting until I get older so people will finally take me seriously and I can do what I want.”
“I don’t need any guy out there to tell me what I’m feeling is real. The only reason I told you is because I was trying to be honest with you. Not because I want your opinion on whether I have legitimate emotions or not.”
“People these days love to speculate on the apocalypse – whether our ultimate demise will be due to nuclear warfare or zombie epidemic or alien invasion. But I think it’s more likely that our end will come on a normal day when we all stop trying to figure out the why of anyone around us and go live in separate houses and rot away, alone.”