Monday, July 17, 2017
[Book Review] Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
Natasha "Tash" Zelenka is the director of a web series adaptation of Anna Karenia, a book writter by Tash's literary love Leo Tolstoy. When the web series, Unhappy Families, gets a shout out by YouTube's bigger creators, Unhappy Families becomes viral. Dealing with the pressure of making the web series even more perfect now that more fans and critics are watching. When Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba, Tash's ongoing email and text flirtation with a vlogger Thom Causer, has the possibility to become more than just long distance flirting, if she can figure out how to tell him that she's a romantic asexual.
I initially wanted to read this book because of the asexual representation, and I was not disappointed. I was worried that because there aren't a lot of asexual characters that when asexuality was explained it was going to sound like a definition from the dictionary, but instead it was naturally woven into Tash's actions and life experiences. It felt just as apart of her as much as her hair color. I am new myself to asexuality, and I have only just discovered that I identify as demisexual (a branch of asexuality) so I was really excited to see such a authentic (according to ace reviewers) of asexuality. There is also a m/m romance which is more in the background. Also, Tash is vegetarian, along with her mother because they are both Buddhists and I thought reading a little about a new religion was really cool.
The characters themselves were okay for me, I started liking Tash a lot at first and then by the end of the book I wasn't the biggest fan of her. She was too selfish and worried about herself, and even if that is something that is brought up in the book, I think it was so bad that it affected what us as readers could have seen. I feel like because Tash is so self absorbed, we don't get to know as much as I would have liked about the other characters which made the book not as enjoyable. Funnily enough, I didn't like Jacklyn (Jack) at first, but by the end of the book she became my favorite character. I liked Paul okay, but I didn't really feel much of anything about him. That seemed to be my overall consensus about most of the characters. The only characters I actually felt for (whether that be good or bad) was Tash, Jack, and Kladuie. I didn't like Tash's sister Klaudie at all and I don't exactly understand her point in the book. Her scenes in the book could be cut completely and the story itself would basically be the same.The only thing she had that was important was the fact that Tash was jealous that she was going to the college Tash wanted to go to, but probably wouldn't get into. I feel like Klaudie was just there to be annoying, but Tash was doing such a great job of that herself that I felt like it was a bit much. I did really enjoy their parents, they seemed really sweet and I wouldn't have minded more family moments to make Tash and Klaudie less irritating.
Although the asexual representation is amazing, the romance itself fell a bit flat for me. I am going to go into a little bit of spoiler-y territory with it so just skip to the yellow highlighted section if you don't want to read the spoiler-y bits. SPOILER WARNING: I liked the way the relationship with Thom and Tash happened because Tash had a chance to really stick up for herself. She hasn't really talked about her asexuality outloud because it makes her uncomfortable and she's still getting to know what it means to her personally. So I really liked that she was able to lay it all on the table the way she did. However, I didn't like that she had to be with Paul, especially since they had little to no romantic chemistry and they were better as friends. I really didn't like the comment from Jack saying something along the lines of "what did you expect of course he likes you, he's been your friend for years" making it seem like guys and girls can't be friends only. I would have liked if maybe there wasn't a romance, or there were more scenes with Paul and Tash that showed that they were more romantically interested in each other. Spoilers are over! I did love the friendship between Tash, Jack, and Paul. They all obviously cared for each other and I love that they knew each other so well.
The whole internet/YouTube/web series aspect of the story was excellent. It showed how hard criticism and internet "trolls" can be and how it impacts the creators. It also shows how hard it was behind the scenes making a web series (or just YouTube videos in general). From getting the schedules down, to dealing with drama between the cast members, to even just the filming process. I would have liked to get to know the cast a little bit more. We are so focused on the most random aspects of the story at times that I would have preferred to focus more on the friendships. I feel like that should be my slogan, "More friendships, less romance."
Overall I think this book is worth the read solely because of the asexual representation and the way the internet and YouTube culture was handled in the story. However, I think I let this book get too overly hyped for me and I went in with really high expectations. I think that the ace rep definitely met my expectations, but I would have liked to see a better romance. I do recommend this book, and I am happy I read it, but maybe go in knowing that the romance isn't that great and that the main character's selfishness hinders the story at times. You may disagree, but then you'll be pleasantly surprised instead of a bit underwhelmed like I was. I am really excited to see more ace representation in books and cannot wait for more.