Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Title: Other Words for Love

Author: Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Ari Mitchell feels invisible at her Brooklyn high school. Her hair is too flat, her style too preppy, and her personality too quiet. And outside school, Ari feels outshined by her beautiful, confident best friend, Summer. Their friendship is as complex and confusing as Ari’s relationship with her troubled older sister, Evelyn, a former teenage mom whose handsome firefighter husband fills Ari’s head with guilty fantasies.
When an unexpected inheritance enables Ari to transfer to an elite Manhattan prep school, she makes a wealthy new friend, Leigh. Leigh introduces Ari to the glamorous side of New York—and to her gorgeous cousin, Blake. Ari doesn’t think she stands a chance, but amazingly, Blake asks her out. As their romance heats up, they find themselves involved in an intense, consuming relationship. Ari’s family worries that she is losing touch with the important things in life, like family, hard work, and planning for the future. 
When misfortune befalls Blake’s family, he pulls away, and Ari’s world drains of color. As she struggles to get over the breakup, Ari must finally ask herself: were their feelings true love . . . or something else?

First Impressions: I loved the cover, that’s why I bought it. The characters are a lot to get used to, but they showed promise.

Pick it up if: You like a book that realistically portrays the mind of a sixteen year old girl, including the constant frantic, stressful, and insecure thoughts that fill the minds most teenage girls. I’d also pick it up just for the conflicts between Ari and her older sister, they’re very interesting and give the book that extra something that makes it worthwhile.

I’m not going to lie, after the first fifty pages, I told myself that my review on Other Words for Love would be the first truly negative one I’ve ever written. I mean, I did NOT the story at all at first. I was really disappointed about it too, because I’m a sucker for teen romances set in New York (preferably the ones written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan). But I just totally hated Ari, who is the main character. Throughout the whole beginning of the book she was so critically observant, judging almost everyone, including her pregnant sister and her mother. There was one moment when she mentioned the layer of fat that was accumulating underneath her pregnant sister’s chin and her knee dimples and she said that it was too bad because her sister used to be beautiful. And then there was a time when her mom was wearing a tank top shirt, and Ari said she shouldn’t because she was overweight and it showed in her arms. I’m just sitting here like, WHAT ARE KNEE DIMPLES DO I HAVE THEM TOO?! And I thought to myself, this isn’t why I read books. I read to escape my brain and my own insecurities, not to be made aware of potential new ones. I was mad at the author too, for bringing these things to light and it sort of made me feel bad about myself, and that’s not what books should be about (in my opinion).

But there was no way I was going to stop reading it because that’s a sin and I had a little faith that the story would grow on me. And it turned out it did.

Ari isn’t a judgmental person, she is an insecure person, and the whole book is about her finding a way to feel good about herself and to feel happy. Looking back at those first fifty pages, I’m no longer mad at the author. What she did is the hardest thing to do when writing a book. She wrote honestly. She wrote the way a sixteen year old thinks, and she didn’t leave any of it out because it wasn’t nice. And I think that sometimes authors get stuck on the idea of being nice. Rosenthal didn’t, and that made all the difference between a mediocre beach reading book and an intuitive story filled with impressive character development and heart.

Ari desperately wants a boyfriend and points out everything that’s wrong with her as an excuse for why she doesn’t have one, which is something I think a lot of sixteen year-olds do. And then she finally gets one and everything’s great until it’s not anymore. I’m trying really hard not to reveal anything that’s not on the back cover.

She goes through these waves of emotions and changes from an insecure girl to a depressed one. And then she has to figure out how to pick herself up, because sometimes there’s no one around to help you and life goes on. And to clarify, it doesn’t bring out my own insecurities, not in a bad way at least. Ari’s own self-consciousness makes me aware of my own too, yes, but it’s good because I travel with her down this road and I become a little bit more powerful, a little bit more hopeful, a little bit happier. So I apologize for being such a hater earlier.

I loved the ending. It’s inspiring to watch Ari pick up the pieces of her scattered life and fit them together again. She finds the strength within her that she always had, but never knew about and she emerges changed. She surfaces with dreams and a future and hopes and the realization that she doesn’t need the safety net of a man to get what she wants from life. And that right there folks, is some serious character development. And it’s why I read books.

8.5 out of 10.

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