Lorraine Zago Rosenthal's Other Words For Love is one of those rare novels that had my heart threatening to fall right out of my chest; the emotions, characters and situations felt so real and stomachache-inducingly familiar. Books about first love usually resonate with me far more than any other subject -- it's something close to my own heart, I guess. And if I had big expectations about this one after reading so many glowing reviews, they were all met. And then some.
Ari is the novel's backbone -- our narrator; our heroine. Told in her matter-of-fact and almost deadpan style, we get to know the Mitchell and Cagney families intimately in a very short time. At 17, Ari finds herself drawn to Patrick, her older sister's firefighter husband -- and who wouldn't? Patrick is everything Ari longs for: handsome; dependable; family-oriented; strong. And, more than anything, he takes an interest in her . . . too much, Evelyn gripes. Too much of an interest in her.
Oh, this book . . . it's hard to even pinpoint why I adored it so much. The love story that transpires had me breathless, remembering, and it's difficult to not feel tossed right back into the maelstrom of your own first love while dissolving into Other Words For Love. Rosenthal does an incredible job making us love and care for these people -- and Ari felt like a friend I could head to Brooklyn and visit. The glittering world of Leigh, Blake and Delsin -- Ari's new friends in the city -- was sparkling, yes, but it wasn't their wealth that made them so appealing to Ari. It was a sense of belonging and camaraderie -- and of love -- that made their presence like a drug to her.
In the story, Summer accuses Ari of not really being in love -- of simply thinking she is -- because she's in a state of limerence, when feelings of romantic love are so intense that your affection becomes obsession. But who doesn't look back on their first great love and remember those sleepless nights spent replaying every word and look exchanged, and the very first time you kissed? Of the way you felt when you realized your feelings were returned -- when you wanted to wake up and shout "I'm in love!" while dancing in traffic on the roof of your car?
If you have a desire to replay that time in your life -- or simply read a sweet, understated but beautiful novel -- don't miss out on Other Words For Love. Though labeled as young adult literature, our protagonist is anything but a "typical" teen -- and this is anything but a one-note love story.