Tash Hearts Tolstoy
by Kathyrn Ormsbee
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Length: 367 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Obtained Via: I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for consideration of an honest review.
View at the Traffic light:
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?
Sometimes a character just jumps off the page enough to know within a chapter or two that you will absolutely love a book. Tash Hearts Tolstoy was one of those books for me. It was cute, bordered on the line between serious and fluff, and had a cast of characters I just absolutely adored.
As the summary suggests, Tash Hearts Tolstoy follows main character Tash, who along with her best friend Jack, created a web series adaptation of Anna Karenina. The web series doesn’t get much attention, until a famous vlogger mentions it in a video, and suddenly Tash is mildly internet famous. Tash Hearts Tolstoy follows what happens after that to Tash’s family, friends, and potential romantic interest, Thom.
You might think based on the summary that Tash Hearts Tolstoy is mainly a contemporary romance, but while there IS romance (and how I ADORED it and was rooting for it the entire time), the book focused on friendship and family MUCH more than I was expecting, which was a happy surprise. Tash and Jack’s friendship has to navigate the ups and down of being semi-famous, and it was an interesting exploration of a friendship dynamic I hadn’t really seen very often in YA before. It’s a good, strong, friendship, but being thrust into the limelight illuminates both their flaws, and they have to work through that. Tash is also friends with Jack’s brother, Paul, and the dynamic between the three of them was just really great and fun to read, even in the more serious parts. Additionally, Tash is dealing with some family stuff throughout the book: her older sister is about to go off to college, and fairly soon into the book her parents drop the bombshell that her mother is pregnant.
As for the actual story of the book, well, there’s a lot going on. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that there’s a lot of subplots. There’s the story of Unhappy Families, the friend stuff, the family stuff, and the romance stuff. At the point the book opens, Tash is certain in her sexuality, but is still figuring out what that means, practically, for dating and falling in love. I can’t speak to the representation of asexuality, but it did seem to be handled with a lot of care and nuance, even though there was definitely some miscommunication between Tash and her friends. When Tash comes out to her friends, she stumbles a bit and while they’re very supportive, it takes them awhile to learn how Tash feels. There are also some microaggressions made against Tash’s sexuality (not from her friends), which did read very realistic but also something readers might want to be aware of.
I’ve read some early reviews that said they didn’t like Tash’s character very much because of how uptight she was, but personally I enjoyed that aspect of Tash’s character because I could see where it was coming from. Tash is the “artsy” sister when compared to her straight-A sister, but she’s still ambitious and likes to be in control of the situation — she is producing an entire web series, after all. Yes, she made choices that were often frustrating to read, but they felt very true to her character, particularly when added to her nervous feelings about her romance and all the changes her family was going through. I also really loved Tash’s voice. It was fresh, felt authentic, and made me laugh several times. I think if you like Becky Albertalli’s books or Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here, you’ll like Tash Hearts Tolstoy.
Tash Hearts Tolstoy was a charming, fun read. There was depth and complexity, but on the whole it was a happy book that dealt with family changes, friendships, and romance. 5/5 cupcakes.