Book: Tash Hearts Tolstoy
Author: Kathryn Ormbee
Genre: YA / fiction
What it’s about: Tash loves two things: Tolstoy and filmmaking. Unhappy Families, the low-budget web series she’s co-creating with her best friend Jack, is the perfect culmination of those loves. When a famous vlogger mentions Unhappy Families in a video, their views suddenly go through the roof. But this newfound fame comes with a lot of stress and haters, too. Tash has to figure out how to balance being a good friend and daughter with managing a breakout web series. What would Leo do? Other than help a bunch of serfs and write a few best sellers, that is. Tash struggles to keep it all together as the filming for Unhappy Families wraps up, they get a nomination for a kind-of big deal internet award, and she tries to navigate unexpected crushes and complicated family relationships.
My thoughts: I didn’t know much about this book going into it. I had heard good things, but I mostly read it because it was being hosted for free for a limited time on rivetedlit.com as a part of a December YA celebration. So, color me surprised when I learned there were so many degrees of connection between the book and me. The main character Tash is the creator behind a literary web-series–something I did for several years in college. I can’t say any of my college web series projects got the kind of attention that Unhappy Families does in the book, but it was so much fun to read about Tash’s experiences–a lot of which were spot on to many of mine–and reminisce about my own late nights filming and frustrations with cast members running late or not knowing their lines. At one point Tash refers to directing the cast as trying to manage “preschoolers,” and I know there is BTS footage of me somewhere comparing directing to wrangling preschoolers.
I really loved the focus on family and friendship in this book. Although Tash isn’t very close with her sister (and I’m usually a complete sucker for sibling dynamics), their relationship is still an important aspect of the book. And Tash’s relationship with her parents is front and center, as are her friendships with Jack and her older brother Paul. A big part of Tash’s journey through the book was learning how to be a better friend and daughter, and how to prioritize those relationships even while pursuing the things she loves.
I also thought there was some really great (and interesting) representation in the book. Tash’s father is the son of Czech immigrants and her mother is from New Zealand. Her father is Greek Orthodox Christian and her mother is a Buddhist, and she juggles those beliefs (though it seems like she tends to lean toward meditation and Buddhist teachings more often than not). I don’t think I’ve ever read a YA book featuring Buddhism so that was really cool and interesting. Plus, this book has some really great ace rep, and that’s not something you see nearly enough of in books and other media. Tash isn’t exactly out–except to her two best friends, sort of–but she is fairly comfortable in her asexuality. It causes problems occasionally, when she hard headedly assumes no sexual guy could possibly date her because of it, but everything work out in the end. (No spoilers, but yes, the book has a happy ending.)
Overall, it was a fun and cute YA novel, especially for any YouTube or new media-obsessed young people who can either relate to Tash’s role as an internet creator or else will enjoy the glimpse behind the screen. Either way, it’s a good read, and I’d recommend it for fans of Becky Albertalli’s books: Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited.
TL:DR: A cute book about dealing with internet fame and learning to be true to yourself.
“If you want a chance at being happy, exist. Because yes, life can suck, but as long as you’re alive, there’s a chance you can be happy.”