Althea & Oliver is the stunning debut by Cristina Moracho, full of hard-hitting honesty and moments that will leave reeling (and feeling!) long after you’ve read the last page.
Althea & Oliver is complex, heart-wrenching, and gutsy. It’s one of those books that isn’t necessarily a comfortable read nor is it without any faults, but it really stuck with me in a way many books don’t.
Althea and Oliver have been inseparable friends since early childhood and ten years later, they’re practically co-dependent. Althea, a veritable love letter to introverts, leans a little more heavily on outgoing and generally well-liked Oliver. She also struggles constantly with her unrequited but ever-growing feelings for the only true friend she’s ever known; one who doesn’t feel the same way about her.
Things are additionally complicated when Oliver develops a rare disease that causes its victims to fall into trance-like periods of sleep for weeks at a time. Forced to deal with the irreparable separation, Althea begins to live a life of her own– much of which involves acting out against Oliver’s retreat and her emotionally distant father, but not in stereotypical ways. Meanwhile, Oliver is struggling with his own future, which holds much less hope now that he may not be able to function for weeks or months at a time. The two push and pull at the undefinable connection between them over several months, but one thing is clear: Neither of them will ever be the same.
Fair warning: This book is not for everyone. It falls on the adult end of the Young Adult scale, dealing with issues of sex, drugs, and family issues. There are sexual tensions of an unsure and really not “sexy” nature between teens, but it works as a solid point for contemplation on bigger issues like consent and making independent decisions. It features a conclusive but very unconventional ending.
But if you’re looking for a book that hits you right in the feels, this is it. In fact, the teenage turmoil highlighted by authors like John Green and Rainbow Rowell (both of whom we love!) looks positively soft and fluffy by comparison.