Title: Tash hearts Tolstoy
Author: Kathryn Ormsbee
Review: The opening to Tash hearts Tolstoy was brilliant we meet Tash and a group of her friends as they produce and post the newest video in their web sites Unhappy Families. This series is a modern take on the story Anna Karenina because Tash loves Leo Tolstoy as she calls him and Anna is one of her favourite books. Life is pretty much normal for the group as they head to the graduation paid for their friend Paul and Tash’s sister Klaudie until they learn their series is going viral after a popular YouTuber mentioned their work. At first Tash is literally stunned and doesn’t really know how to react but she is happy especially when another semi famous YouTuber Thom emails her. She and Thom have been emailing for months and he has asked for her number and Tash is excited but she has already mentioned that she isn’t interested in relationships. We see early on that the group has some strange dynamics like the fact Tash and Jack have a love/hate relationship and Tash and Paul have a relationship that could be seen as romantic despite him not knowing what Tolstoy wrote about or not sharing Tash’s obsession.
As we approach the 1/4 mark in the novel we begin to learn more about the characters like how the cast of Unhappy Families was formed and what Tash’s home life is like. Tash herself is a natural leader on set and takes her role very seriously especially with the new viral boost. I really liked the slight religious conflict in Tash’s family; her father is a Christian, her mother is a Buddhist and her sister is atheist. Tash practises Buddhism although she hasn’t expressed her beliefs explicitly to her parents. Tash is also very ambitious as she wants to go to Vanderbilt although she has to told to set her sights a little lower. From the second I started this book I was hooked. It doesn’t take long for the dreams to pushed up, even after the massive attention they are getting Klaudie decides to quit for selfish reasons in Tash’s eyes and I as a reader definitely felt she was selfish and she didn’t give Tash any notice at all. We also get the feeling that something isn’t right with Tash as she isn’t interested in romance, while she finds people like Paul and Thom nice to look at she has zero romantic or sexual interest in anyone making me think she could be asexual which is very interesting and I’ve personally never read about an asexual character before.
As we cross the 1/4 mark in the novel we learn that Tash doesn’t give her sexuality a label but if she had to she would say she is hetromantic ace meaning she like boys but doesn’t have any interest in sex, in fact it mildly disturbs her. In the aftermath of Klaudie’s leaving the crew Tash is worried how the other will react although she does get some good news. It turns out that Unhappy Families has been nominated for a Golden Tuba award and Tash is given free stay in Orlando which is her dream. She just now has to convince her parents to let her go, but everything isn’t as great in the wider picture it turns out Jack’s father who has been in remission may be falling ill again. This book is an emotional roller-coaster sometimes things are good then they are bad then they are good again, it is literally making me dizzy jumping back and forth between all the different emotions.
As we approach the halfway mark in the novel Tash’s life in her opinion is spiralling out of control and she isn’t happy with it. As her mother announces a new pregnancy Tash is anxious that she will be pushed out of the family and that she won’t get any attention from her parents. As a middle child myself I totally understand how Tash feels but rather than talking to anyone about her feelings she bottles it up. Her relationship with Klaudie also begins to fall apart when Klaudie’s behaviour changes for the worst. When Tash confronts her about her rude and appalling behaviour she says some terrible things to Tash that really hurt her sister but it doesn’t feel spontaneous, this conversation feels like it has been building for a while especially on Klaudie’s part. On the upside Tash’s parents are allowing her to go to the Golden Tuba awards meaning she will get to meet Thom in person for the first time but again this poses Tash with a dilemma, because she is asexual she has no idea how to tell a boy she likes that she has no interest in sex when teenage boys feel that sex is a major milestone in a relationship and this scares her. It scares her because she feels being rejected for not being the boy’s type is better than being rejected because the boy wants something that she isn’t comfortable giving to him. I really enjoyed the way Ormsbee looks at relationship and sex between teenagers and how it poses problems for people of different sexualities.
As we cross into the second half of the novel we see Tash struggling to cope with the new pressures being place upon her. She struggles to understand why her parents want another child, she struggles to cope with pressures of being noticed and the hate that comes with it but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Tash does have a great support network though especially in Thom who posts a video suggesting people keep their negative opinions to themselves which raises Tash’s spirits but at home things aren’t well. Klaudie has basically isolated herself from the rest of the family until she leaves for college and Tash is coming to terms with the idea that she might not be able to get into her dream college resulting in anger and resentment towards her sister. We also see a lot of tension between the cast in light of recent events they aren’t out of place but whenever something goes wrong something good happens slightly overshadowing the effect these negative things have on the characters but it doesn’t take anything away from the story. It seems that family tie and friendships make up a huge part of this novel and I really enjoyed the scene between Klaudie and Tash as they begin to understand how the other works and begin to repair their relationship.
As we approach the 3/4 mark in the novel we see how insecure Tash is about her sexuality and how other relationships affect her especially she is having a Paul/Thom dilemma. Ormsbee introduces several different relationships as there are heterosexual characters, bisexual or homosexual characters and Tash. We the reader can empathize with Tash because there is no other sexuality like her so we understand her hesitation and isolation. Tash’s life is on the up with the Golden Tubs awards coming up but her relationship with Paul changes when he confesses he has been in love with her for years but she isn’t prepared to try with him. I do believe that Tash is in love with Paul but she may just be unwilling to admit it to herself. In the aftermath of Paul’s confession Tash also has a falling out with Jack and rather than feeling with it straight away Tash decides to put it off until after she returns from the award ceremony. Then comes the moment that Tash and Thom meets for the first time and she isn’t really taken with him especially when he pronounced her name wrong but she still agrees to go to dinner with him. With only 30 pages left in the novel I was excited to see how Ormsbee would wrap up this emotional rollercoaster.
As we cross into the final section of the novel we get to see the Golden Tuba award and unfortunately Unhappy Families doesn’t win but that isn’t the end of this horror show as Thom refuses to accept that Tash is asexual at 17 and she also gets the news that Mr. Harlow’s cancer has returned and is more aggressive than before. Tash immediately returns home but even staying to see the outcome of the award ceremony she leaves that to George. All the way home she contemplates the kind of friend she has been recently and decides to amends. While the ending of Tash hearts Tolstoy is by no means happy Tash has finally decided who she wants to be and where she wants her life to go giving the novel a hopeful ending despite not being entirely happy.
Overall, I really enjoyed Tash Hearts Tolstoy despite it being a little difficult to get into at the beginning. This book touches on quite a few themes surrounding sexuality which I really enjoyed but I would have like more detail on Tash’s asexuality than what was there but in the context of the novel it worked really well in terms of character and plot development. If you are looking for a more diverse read then I would recommend Tash Hearts Tolstoy.
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