A Journey

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Book Review: "Other Words For Love" by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

"These streets will make you feel brand new..." -Alicia Keys, Empire State of Mind

Part of what makes YA stories great isn't just the sprawling scope of what each young character must go through in order to triumph on his or her journey. For a lot of novels, our reading experience hinges on how those same successes and failures reflect our own. In a way, that reflection represents a sense of "home" for us.

In her debut novel, "Other Words For Love," Lorraine Zago Rosenthal crafts an excellent, richly-detailed "home" in which I was immediately able to settle and kick off my shoes to stay, following high schooler Ari "Ariadne" Mitchell through her life's challenges. In a word, Rosenthal's writing is incredibly elegant. Beautiful. Warm. Yes, that's three words. But, the ease with which I was able to find those words is a testament to her ability to hold me in Ari's complicated and fascinating world. From beginning to end, I was home.

Love, as that which exists in our lives but is difficult to describe, is equally challenging to talk about in writing. It is often a monumental task to craft "love" in a way that will make it tangible, valuable, to a reader. But, because she grounded love, in its many forms, in carefully chosen "homes" throughout her novel, I didn't have to travel far from the "home" of my own soul, my familiar sense of self, to find them. Neither did Ari.

Ari Mitchell feels out of place in her world, largely absent of love. But, ultimately it was not a tangible neighborhood, like the one where her Brooklyn apartment stood, or where her obligations lay, like her new school in Manhattan or the Parsons School of Design--or even her glitzy, tempting time with the gorgeous Blake for a few weekends in the Hamptons--which gave her a destination.

It was at these places where she truly found what she needed--new friendship, mistakes of lust, the peace derived from artistic expression, the pain of heartbreak, and an ultimate rebirth--to discover her version of love. There isn't one definition, nor are there only certain places in which love can be found. Everything Ari went through embodies love in one way or another. Some of those paths are difficult, some are wonderful, some useful, others not. But they are all important, they're all a part of where we end up. We live, in other words, for love.

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