Other Words for Love

Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

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?

Here’s the scoop:

Ari transfers to a snootypants prep school in Manhattan—one attended by her Barbie-like BFF,  Summer—and makes a new friend named Leigh.  Leigh is wealthy and generous and doesn’t have alot of friends, but instantly she invites Ari into her world, introduces her to her family, and becomes a closer, more constant friend than Summer.  Through Leigh Ari meets Blake, Leigh’s older cousin.  He’s handsome, responsible, slightly older and pretty much perfect. He’s being groomed to take over his father’s law practice someday and is extremely driven, especially because of the high expectations his dad places on him.

Ari has no experience with guys— other than the raging crush she’s always had on her brother-in-law—and she’s completely taken with Blake.  Things slowly develop between them and, like most first loves, things suddenly go from first date to Whammo! It’s love!  The relationship is sweet and all-consuming (but not in a creepy sort of way.  This is realistic).  Ari is taken to the heights of happiness and to new levels of self-esteem because Blake’s love makes her feel worthy.  It improves relations with her extremely troubled sister, Evelyn (the one with the crushworthy hubs) but causes strain on both her relationship with Leigh (who feels used) and Ari’s mother, who worries about her in a don’t-put-your-life-on-hold-for-some-guy sort of way.

It’s all lovely…until Blake dumps her.  Then Ari has to reconstruct her life, starting by getting out of bed and figuring out who she is without him.

This book was completely different from I expected.  I really thought the romance to eat up more of the story, but the love-dovey stuff didn’t even begin until about 17o pages in.  Rosenthal spends much of the time before that painting a picture of Ari and her somewhat bleak adolescence.  She feels like a girl who is nothing special from a family that has issues: her parents are married, but not necessarily the happiest of couples, her sister is moody and self-centered with jealousy issues targeted at Ari (and Ari’s parents always, always side with Evelyn, further validating her feelings), and she’s always felt like a plain Jane compared to her beautiful, perfect best friend, Summer. The romance was sweet and enticing and helped to draw Ari from her empty life.  As the reader, I felt such pain for her when it all ended because it was like seeing Cinderella come home from the ball,  but not getting the prince. Ari’s heartache was so vivid.  Her sadness was like a dark pit from which she had to rise or be swallowed.

I thought this was a solid, well-written story and at the end of the day, I was sad to put it down.  I appreciated how much Ari grew and the struggles she experienced with her mother, Leigh and Summer while she was dating Blake, as well as her difficulties afterward.  The overall tone is pretty somber, but it touched my heart.  Maybe it’s because the book is set in the 1980’s, the era of my childhood, but I’d like to believe that Ari is out there somewhere, happy, well-adjusted and content with the choices she’s made.

Crush Intensity: 4/5

Soundtrack: I’m going Breakfast Club. Simple Minds.  You’ve heard it a million times, but the words are SO GOOD.  Why? Because you never forget your first love (especially me. I married mine).

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