Title: Tash Hearts Tolstoy
Author: Kathryn Ormsbee
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Featured Image: Google Images
It’s not often that you see an asexual character represented (positively) in media. Even more so, you rarely discover main characters who are asexual and honest about themselves.
That’s what Tash Hearts Tolstoy means to me.
Simon and Schuster sent me this eARC of THT through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review but this won’t in any way influence my opinions—however, the fact that I am asexual might. *wink*
I loved this book. Plain and simple. This was my first novel from Kathryn Ormsbee. While the writing wasn’t spectacular, it was fun, concise, and I enjoyed listening to Natasha’s (Tash) perspective.
Tash is such a charming main character. She dreams of being a filmmaker, lives for social media, has internet friends, and cares immensely for her family. And she’s asexual, of course (you can’t possibly expect me to not mention this. . .repeatedly.)
If you couldn’t tell by the title, Tash adores Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy—a Russian author who wrote Tash’s favorite novel of all time: Anna Karenina. In fact, she makes a modern retelling of AK into a web series. When it becomes super popular due to a shoutout from a larger Youtuber, their views soar and so Tash and her actor buddies became instant viral sensations.
Filled with laughter, self-discovery, and friendship, Tash Hearts Tolstoy is a book I’d definitely recommend, whether you’re looking for LGBTQIAP+ rep or for just a fun read that will instantly cheer you up.
END OF SPOILER FREE SECTION
Let’s get to know Tash.
Natasha Zelenka is your average American teen in Kentucky, from a Czech father and a Kiwi (New Zealand) mother. Tash practices Buddhism from her mother but is overall pretty much your regular kid. She doesn’t always get along with her older, more seemingly perfect sister, Klaudie.
The blend of mixed culture was so natural in THT, which is another thing I’d like to see more in YA. Tash’s mother was patient and kind and misses her home in NZ, but loves her little clan of Zelenkas in Kentucky, too. The family dynamic was so strong in this novel, faced with struggles such as college tuition, unexpected pregnancy, reparations with parents and siblings, and many other obstacles.
One of my favorite things about THT was how social media was so purely integrated into the characters’ lives. In many contemporary novels, I’ve noticed that YA characters in modern day settings aren’t as focused on the internet. Perhaps that’s only adult YA authors not considering the generation gap between us and them—or some teenagers just aren’t interested in living online. However, in THT the actors of Tash and Jack’s web series are all connected to Youtube, Tumblr, blogs, etc. It feels so. . .realistic? I’m a blogger, and I’m friends with bloggers—social media dictates our lives, ideal or not, it’s a trope I’d like to see more often in YA contemporary.
I also loved loved the way THT tackled the unique experience of viral sensations. Sure, lots of people (and I mean lots) have become viral sensations since the beginning of the internet, but in THT Tash and her friends are overwhelmed by fan blogs, public appearances, and pretending to not be bothered by their first wave of hate comments. Eventually, things slow down again, proving that you may burn bright, but you do not burn forever.
That being said, I really wish Tash existed so I could binge her show Unhappy Families and watch her teatime talks. That would be everything.
Now, onto the asexuality.
When it’s first mentioned, Tash is recalling when she told her friends Jacklyn and Paul that she “didn’t want sex” from a relationship. You can say that they didn’t expect Tash to share this info about herself—but later in the present time of the novel, Jack apparently did her research in addition to Tash and said she understands her asexuality.
Tash begins to cry with relief that Jack let her open up to her.
When I told my friends I was asexual, it was much more casual and I didn’t hug or cry, my friends only said, “that’s cool.” oops? It’s altogether a very heartwarming scene.
As for Thom.
Thom is portrayed as the golden boy internet friend. He was there to give her advice when Tash was overwhelmed by the influx of comments and views on Unhappy Families. Tash is obsessed with flirt-texting Thom, but hesitates to bring up her asexuality. She is afraid to ruin her chances.
There is SO MUCH WRONG with this mindset. But against her better judgement, Tash falls harder for Thom and knows she can meet him at the Golden Tubas Awards for vlog and web series Youtube channels.
This is where it all gets real.
Thom, you see, is a character that I genuinely liked. He was fun, flirty, etc. and made my girl Tash flutter inside. Even when skeptic Paul tells Tash that Thom is only a phase and continues to put down internet friends
not cool, Paul. Thom was portrayed as sweet and caring.
However, Tash arrives at the awards show and Thom isn’t what she thought.
Thom is late. Thom is rude. Thom is Thom is Thom is. MY PROBLEM IS when Tash is honest about her asexuality and Thom shoots back all the typical aphobia I see on the internet—you just haven’t met the right person, this is an excuse to not be intimate, etc.
While the aphobia thrown in my face sucks, what hurt me ishow Thom is so easily flipped from golden boy to ignorant trash. I’ve seen in YA that characters aren’t always consistent and often change personalities depending on how the authors see fit.
It’s true that not everyone online is honest, but making Thom come off as sweet and charming and then blow Tash off and feed her ignorance is not the boy she texted. All I’m saying is, it was way too easy to set Thom up as the villain when he was viewed as the hero.
P.S. the trope of best friend (Paul) pining after main character (Tash) for years is too extreme cliche for me to handle. That aside, I really enjoyed THT.
In a few more words, Tash Hearts Tolstoy had some issues with characters but otherwise had wonderful asexual rep and a fun storyline about viral sensations online—and a couple lessons about family thrown in there, too. I’d love to see THT spawn a collection of more ace books. Hopefully they’ll be aromantic asexual books. One can only hope. . .
I’m incredible grateful to have received an eARC for Tash Hearts Tolstoy. However, since I am an ace I’m going to purchase a hardcover copy and support Kathryn Ormsbee during pride month. . .of all months.
Enjoy my review? Comment below you thoughts! What books made you feel validated?