Wednesday, February 16, 2011

REVIEW: Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal (website)
Released on 01.11.2011
354 pages
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: Library


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? (from GoodReads)

REVIEW:  Oh my. . . this book was tender aching, lovely loneliness, and finally, quiet confidence. 

This is a book I think almost anyone can appreciate and relate to.  If you’re older, you are going to think about your first serious romance and let your mind roll over the nostalgia, good or bad.  If you are Ari’s age and in a relationship of your own, you might laugh, commiserate and nod in agreement.  If you still are waiting for your first ‘real’ relationship, Ari’s story might simultaneously make you want one more and caution that a heart that loves is also a heart that can be crushed.  Ari is every girl, and I don’t mean that she’s a two-dimensional character; I mean that her thoughts, hopes, disappointments and emotions are ones we universally share.  It’s a rare person who hasn’t had almost all the same reactions that Ari has, even the darkest, saddest ones. 

That being said, there is something more to this book than being a coming-of-age tale about first love.  It’s about the different types of love we carry, and how the affection and commitment we have for one person affects our relationships that we have with others.  In the beginning, I think this is why Ari’s yearning for someone to care for her is so acute.  Her family does love her, but she lives in the shadow of her sister’s life choices and her mother’s expectations.  Her relationship with her father is a distant one, and it seems that while she certainly is loved, there is little said in words or actions by her family that shows she is truly appreciated.  Too often, the family’s care over one of the more fragile and selfish members of the family causes them to expect Ari to sacrifice emotionally.  Ari gets it, but for a girl who already feels like she is nothing special, it still stings.  When how she ought to treat others is at odds with her own desires, Ari also learns that mirrors reflect both ways, and that she, too, is capable of stinging others.

It’s a wonderfully written story, with hallmarks and benchmarks of growing up being woven through the narrative of everyday living.  I think that’s what I appreciated most.  So often in these stories, the self-analysis and introspection that the protagonist takes us through is very involved and detailed.  Ari has her depressing moments, but I’d say for about a good two-thirds of the book, it’s almost as if she won’t admit to herself how she really feels, or she’ll briefly acknowledge the truth of her emotions without actually feeling them.  Very often, Ari’s fixes her own self-assessment onto the Saint Anne statue that the previous homeowners left behind.  There is also a true honesty and authenticity in Ari's family, and the way they treat each other continuously moves the story along.  I don't usually see each individual's personal characteristics come out, and I think the author really nailed this.

Other Words for Love: I don’t think the title is so much about the actual ‘other’ words so much as the actions we hope convey our affections.  Sometimes we fall short, and sometimes we have to choose between the different types of love we have among those we care for.  The book is a reminder that emotions ebb and flow, and sometimes people grow out of relationships the same way they grow into them.  True love, did Ari have it?  No, but I think she did love Blake, and the first time you care for someone like that, it changes your world to realize you can feel that deeply.  Ari learned hard lessons from it, but they are ones she can carry forward for the rest of her life.  Towards the end my mind drifted a little bit, but I loved the resolution.  It's certainly not a Hollywood ending, but part of me feels very proud of Ari.  I hope you will, too.


“. . . I figured that breasts and hips were the things that made you a grown-up and grown-ups weren’t supposed to cry at all, but if they did, they had to do it alone, locked in a bathroom or in the car when nobody else was there, and if anyone noticed their bloodshot eyes, they had to shake it of and be all stoic and say Oh, I’m just fine.

            I believed this for a few years.  I believed it and bravely accepted it until the first time I saw Evelyn cry to Patrick and he held her and stroked her hair, and I thought it was the most hopeful thing I’d ever seen.”
-Ari, page 99

“I also thought of Evelyn, and I wondered if Blake and I had something in common.  We were both trying to make up for things we hadn’t even done.”
-Ari, page 135

“‘You’re too pretty,’ he said when we were done.

I was?  Those three words sent me floating over my lawn.  The grass was growing in thick and green, and Saint Anne didn’t seem lonely and old and chipped.  Her dress was bright blue, her shawl was sparkly gold.  She and little Mary looked like they were having a good day.”
-Blake & Ari, page 166

“My happiness hindered my sleep.  I stared at my bedroom ceiling later on, thinking about Blake, remembering the way he had touched me.  He was careful and gentle, as if I was fragile and important, like I was the soft spot on a baby’s head.”
-Ari, page 168


  1. I have this one on my wishlist but haven't read any reviews for it yet so I'm glad you decided to critique it. I love that Other Words for Love isn't just strictly about a first love but about love in general and am looking forward to reading it myself.

  2. I wasn't sure about this book but after your review I am definitely getting it. Those quotes were beautiful and it sounds like a realistic coming of age story. Another brilliant review :)

  3. oh, wow. what a lovely review! you pulled me in from the first line: Oh my. . . this book was tender aching, lovely loneliness, and finally, quiet confidence

    just beautifully expressed and summed up!

    this sounds exactly like my kind of book ~ thanks for the lovely review!

  4. Beautiful Review!! I just bought this one...I was thinking of passing it up but I loved the cover...(yes I buy books for I cant wait to achy and lost in this love story.

  5. I've been enchanted by this book ever since I read the premise and saw the cover. I'm so glad it doesn't disappoint.

    You know how I feel about distant fathers. That is why stories that carry characters away from those adversities until they find their own understanding and peace always resonate with me.

    Can't wait to read this one, Linds. Thanks so much for sharing your insights.

  6. Wonderful review on this. I'm adding it to my list. :)