Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho
Release Date: 9 October, 2014
Penguin Young Readers Group/Viking
Spring 1996. Althea Carter and Oliver McKinley have been best friends since first grade, living on the same block in Wilmington, North Carolina. Now they’re juniors, developing romantic feelings for each other—and things go off the rails. Oliver contracts Kleine-Levin Syndrome, also known as “Sleeping Beauty syndrome”; he’s in bed for weeks at a time, and remembers nothing, especially not what he might do in the middle of an episode. What happens during one of those episodes shatters their friendship, and before they can talk about it, his mother enrolls him in a sleep study in Manhattan. He leaves without telling Althea. She follows him, and the surprising conclusion to their lifelong story will completely satisfy readers. This whip-smart, funny, literary debut is a must-read—and a cut above.
I obtained a 30-page preview of this novel via NetGalley, and immediately had a question. Americans. Why do you say ‘Legos’? Why do you throw in the ‘s’? Even usually grammatically correct people seem to say Legos – it’s a brand name, it’s just Lego! (Google it if you want to see more on that.)
Anyhow, onto the actual review. We see Althea and Oliver hanging out together, the best of friends, always there for each other and so vitally important in their formative years. They don’t cope overly well when separated, either by holidays or otherwise. When Oliver starts to get ill, it’s confusing and frustrating for Althea, and we see this through her eyes as she struggles to be there for him, caring, but also deal with her own hurt and worries.
It’s always sad to see neighbours who judge more than they help. Seeing characters worry about what the neighbours can see – rather than neighbours coming out to ask if everything is okay and can they help – is something seen more and more in recent novels.
This preview cuts just after Oliver’s second ‘incident’, and we see the turmoil it leaves Althea, unable to focus on anything else.
I’ll certainly be looking for the full book when it’s out in a month!