- Page Count: 367
- Release Date: June 6, 2017
- My Rating: 4 stars
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 web series 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, too, heart Tolstoy… and that was pretty much my main reason for picking up this ARC. But then the story turned out to have one of the greatest surprises ever: an asexual main character. Do you know how rare that is?!?!?
Tash is a teen who’s in love with Tolstoy and spends her free time creating a YouTube series with her friends that’s a modernization of Anna Karenina. One day a vlogger gives her a shoutout and suddenly they’re going viral with over 50,000 followers.
Tash and her friends spend a lot of the story dealing with family issues (like cancer), shooting videos, and navigating new relationship dynamics. About halfway through Tash starts getting into how she’s not sexually attracted to anyone, even though she’s still romantically attracted to guys. Her confusion, despair, and frustration as she reflects on this was a brief, but powerful part of the story:
“…because how could I be a girl, when apparently all other girls were sexual beings?”
Tash has been talking with a well-known vlogger online for awhile and starts to like him, but isn’t sure how to tell him that she’s pretty sure she’s asexual. Then she’s nominated for an award and has the chance to meet him in real life.
I wasn’t always a fan of the way some characters acted, but it also just seemed like flawed people trying to figure out life. A certain character provides the typical idiotic comments that need to be called out, like how Tash is too young to know or how being asexual wasn’t a thing until the internet told people they were. This part felt a bit forced, but had so many important points I didn’t really care.
The author did a great job of depicting how much work goes into managing social media accounts, the atmosphere of a low budget film set, and the mentality of getting attention online. Everything seemed realistic and the characters felt like believable teens! And the Tolstoy references were another favorite part for sure.
The story was pretty slow moving at times and did drag a lot for me, though, so that’s why I took a star off. I cared a lot more about the characters than the actual filmmaking (which was a good chunk of the story). So if you’re super into the YouTube scene, you’d definitely love this even more than I did!
Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC.