Althea & Oliver
“Fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park will enjoy debut author Cristina Moracho’s trip back to the 1990s in Althea and Oliver.” —CNN.com
“A gut-wrenching tale.” —People
What if you live for the moment when life goes off the rails—and then one day there’s no one left to help you get it back on track?
Althea Carter and Oliver McKinley have been best friends since they were six; she’s the fist-fighting instigator to his peacemaker, the artist whose vision balances his scientific bent. Now, as their junior year of high school comes to a close, Althea has begun to want something more than just best-friendship. Oliver, for his part, simply wants life to go back to normal, but when he wakes up one morning with no memory of the past three weeks, he can’t deny any longer that something is seriously wrong with him. And then Althea makes the worst bad decision ever, and her relationship with Oliver is shattered. He leaves town for a clinical study in New York, resolving to repair whatever is broken in his brain, while she gets into her battered Camry and drives up the coast after him, determined to make up for what she’s done.
Their journey will take them from the rooftops, keg parties, and all-ages shows of their North Carolina hometown to the pool halls, punk houses, and hospitals of New York City before they once more stand together and face their chances. Set in the DIY, mix tape,and zine culture of the mid-1990s, Cristina Moracho’s whip-smart debut is an achingly real story about identity, illness, and love—and why bad decisions sometimes feel so good.
1. How do you think the setting—the time and place—influences the narrative? Could this story have happened the same way today?
2. What are your feelings about Althea’s and Oliver’s separate relationships with their parents? Did you wish you had learned more about Althea’s mother or Oliver’s father?
3. Althea and Oliver each have very specific roles in their friendship—Althea is the instigator, whereas Oliver is the peacemaker. Do you think these roles have hurt or helped them?
4. How do Althea’s and Oliver’s parallel journeys change them? Were you surprised by the way they found each other again? What roles do you think they will take on when dealing with each other after the book ends?
5. What about Althea’s and Oliver makes them so perfect for each other, but at the same time such a hazardous combination?
6. Did you feel that the ending of the book was exactly how it should have been? If not, how would you have changed it?
Cristina Moracho is a native New Yorker who received her MFA in fiction from Brooklyn College, where the first chapter of ALTHEA & OLIVER was awarded the Carole and Irwin Lainoff Award by acclaimed author Jim Shepard. She's been a fellow at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico, where she did not hear the Taos Hum but did attend a party at a solar-powered radio station. She writes about bad decisions and does all her own research.
She lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where she works as a freelance writer and editor, is teaching herself to play the guitar and is writing her next novel.