I actually read Tash Hearts Tolstoy (young adult 367 pages) by Kathryn Ormsbee quite some time ago but I haven’t been doing a very good job lately with keeping up on my reviews. That really just means that now I’ll be playing catch-up for the foreseeable future.
“Virtually yours. 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 webseries 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?”
I needed a book to read after a very extensive period of intense work-related stress so I picked up Tash Hearts Tolstoy, as it’s been recommended repeatedly to me as a fantastic asexual book and, quite frankly, there’s so little positive representation of asexual main characters that I figured I’d give it a try. This book is on my list of 2018 asexual reading books but not until November. I needed something a little simpler than the giant books that are next on the reading list.
I freely admit that I am probably not the intended target audience for this book, as I am older, not very internet savvy, and I am not a heterosexual asexual. I also acknowledge that there were a lot of references and small jokes within this novel that I probably didn’t get. I’ve never read Anna Karenina and I am not very well-versed in Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, YouTube channels, Golden Tubas, and other parts of modern internet culture mentioned throughout this book. I feel that having a stronger background in any of those things would have given me a lot of “ah-ha” moments where I was in on the little jokes and references throughout this novel. As it is, I read this book cold with no expectations.
I absolutely understand why this book is such a highly recommended book. The book has a lot of small references to things people who spend most of their time involved with on the internet will understand and sympathize with on a more comprehensive level than I could. There are some genuinely interesting moments for those who have a more deeply ingrained knowledge of internet culture than I do, as well as some great moments for those who have a background in Tolstoy and Anna Karenina. The asexual representation was an accurate representation of the experiences of a het-ace and was demonstrated in a variety of methods throughout the story which I felt would be easy to understand for someone who isn’t asexual.
I think this book was an interesting look at internet culture and how so much pressure can accumulate on people so young who are just trying to express themselves through the most common artistic venue of their age, which right now is the internet. I was impressed with the level of dedication exhibited by the characters in the novel and how professionally all of them worked within each of their roles. Though still in high school, the actors for Unhappy Families performed their roles very well. The scenes were set up and edited effectively and even though no one was getting paid for their work, they all took it seriously. I think that’s a solid reflection of the work ethics of the younger generation and clearly highlights how hard they work, even though most of the very old generations give them lots of crap. The book also showed what happens as soon as something becomes “popular” in the sense that there will always be those people who just want to pick things apart just because they can (which is a very ironic thing to say while typing up a book review).
The struggle with finances also clearly demonstrated issues relevant to pretty much everyone under the age of 50 right now. Your entire savings can be destroyed by a weekend trip or the life savings for your entire family can be demolished by illness. The success of Unhappy Families didn’t change any of the creators’ financial aspects, though it did open more doors for all of them and gave them opportunities they may not have otherwise received.
Overall, the book was a fairly light read, though there were definitely two parts which had me worried about whether this book was going to end well or not. The story made sense and flowed well and the characters were all distinct. I’d probably rate this book as a low three on my rating scale. I’m glad I bought it to support other asexual authors and I’m positive I would have had a very different experience with this book if I was closer to the target audience for this story and all the internal references.