Other Words for Love, by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
Published: January 11, 2011
Genre: YA Contemporary
When an unexpected inheritance enables Ari to transfer to an elite Manhattan prep school, she makes a wealthy new friend, Leigh. Leigh introduces Ari to the glamorous side of New York--and to her gorgeous cousin, Blake. Ari doesn't think she stands a chance, but amazingly, Blake asks her out. As their romance heats up, they find themselves involved in an intense, consuming relationship. Ari's family worries that she is losing touch with the important things in life, like family, hard work, and planning for the future.
When misfortune befalls Blake's family, he pulls away, and Ari's world drains of color. As she struggles to get over the breakup, Ari must finally ask herself: were their feelings true love . . . or something else?
I wanted to like Other Words for Love. No, I wanted to love Other Words for Love.
Ari's story had a rocky start for me, with over a hundred pages passed before we meet the boy she is supposed to fall in an out of love with. This time was filled with family drama; her sister Evelyn's mood swings, Ari's lying down and taking this shit Evelyn dishes out, her lusting for her sister's husband, and a friend who is quite frankly, a shallow selfish bitch. Not to mention a mother whose character felt inconsistent. These characters are written well, so well that I found myself sick at my distaste for them. For me, this shine's a light on Lorraine's writing ability, to make me to have to take a step back and realize that these characters are fiction, and I can't go back in time and tell them they're all full of shit.
Before Ari meets Blake, she's already heavily lusting after two other guys, and it just didn't make me like her character anymore than I already did. Which was, not at all. I just didn't connect with her. Well developed? Yes. Likable? Not for me personally. She was driven purely by hormones, and I suppose that is the point, but I'm not a fan of these situations. When she wasn't worried about one of the various older men in her life, she was complaining about and/or jealous of a toddler. I just didn't like her. I found myself having to force my way through the novel at times, because my disconnect with Ari was so strong. She really wasn't any better than Summer, in my opinion.
I really couldn't connect with a single character, aside from Leigh. And even then, it wasn't a very strong connection and it was most likely the artist in her that I was drawn to. I'm not saying they weren't well-fleshed out characters, because they definitely were. I just didn't really like any of them, and it's not easy to read a story when there isn't a single character you genuinely like.
Other Words for Love is a well written, well plotted story about a girl just trying to find her way. Everything about the story feels painfully real. (Although, I must be honest, I do not understand the point of it being set in the 80's. Sure, AIDS played a small roll in the anxiety of Ari's choices, but those stakes would be just as high today, if not higher. I'm not going to focus much on that, however, because I don't know the true meaning behind the time period.) Even the ending isn't the fairy tale ending everyone is used to and vies for. If Lorraine were to tell me it wasn't fiction, I would probably believe her, because it is that realistic.
I guess at the end of the day, I didn't connect well with it because I didn't like the characters. It truly is beautifully crafted with characters you'll probably either love or hate. Lorraine Zago Rosenthal is one hell of a story teller. If you can connect with the characters, I have no doubts that Other Words for Love would make a fan out of you. This just wasn't the story for me, but I will be watching for Lorraine's next release, because I know with the right story I could easily be a big fan of hers.