I picked this book up on a whim when I saw it in the new YA section at the library. I’ll admit the cover is not exactly what drew me to the book since it’s just a picture of a scowling Leo Tolstoy, author of Anna Karenina (not my favorite classic by far, but you know). It was actually the description of the book on the inside flap.
Title: Tash Hearts Tolstoy
Author: Kathryn Ormsbee
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release date: June 6, 2017
Genre: Young adult, contemporary
Length: 367 pages (U.S. hardcover)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) “After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.
Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.
And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.
Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?”
This book made be super excited! First off, do you see that the main character, Tash, is asexual? Do you know the last time I read a book starring an asexual character? The only book that comes to mind is the Valdemar: Vows and Honor trilogy by Mercedes Lackey. It was glorious. It’s not YA, but if you love fantasy, pick it up (and basically anything by Lackey because she’s a fantasy-writing goddess!). I also loved the social media aspect of this book.
Tash and her best friend, Jack, started a series on YouTube called Unhappy Families, which is a loose retelling of Anna Karenina. When a famous vlogger mentions their series on her own channel, subscribers to Unhappy Families hit to the tens of thousand, and Tash and the gang learn to navigate Internet fame. Tash also strikes up a conversation with another vlogger named Thom.
What I really enjoyed about this book is how Tash repeatedly approached her asexuality. She admits she was confused and did research before she came to conclusions about herself. However, I do think some of the confusing bits for me mainly dealt with how Tash came out to her friends, Jack and Paul. The way she did it confused not only herself but also her friends, too. Yes, Tash is only seventeen, so I can understand if she’s still wading through her own feelings. That comes to a bit of a head-to-head later in the book, and I admit, it was a little frustrating. I think that mainly had to do with emotions and murky feelings getting involved in ways Tash didn’t anticipate.
Anyway, right, so Tash is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, which is an award for low-budget series. She has an opportunity to go to Orlando for a conference and award ceremony. While she makes some not-so-smart decisions for her age, we really see Tash grow in her experience with the Golden Tubas and overall as a daughter and a sister. She built up this false reality in regards to the award show and Thom. I’ll admit that her reaction about her parents’ announcement confused me, but I can see how her mind processed this information in the way that it did.
Another aspect I enjoyed about this book were the family dynamics. Tash’s mom and dad have a strong, healthy relationship. Tash struggles with her “perfect” older sister, and I feel that’s something many people can relate to. Even what was going on with Jack and Paul’s family can really hit you hard. I definitely appreciated how Tash matured in this short amount of time, and how her relationship developed with one particular character. It was really cute, and I was rooting for them by the end.