April & Oliver - Tess Callahan


Genre: Fiction
Synopsis: Best friends since childhood, the sexual tension between April and Oliver has always been palpable. Years after being completely inseparable, they become strangers, but their lives cross once again with the sudden death of April's brother. Oliver, the responsible, newly engaged law student finds himself drawn more than ever to the reckless, mystifying April - and cracks begin to appear in his carefully constructed life. Is it really April's life that is unraveling, or is it his own? 


Review: After finishing this book, I put it away for about 6 hours before I started writing this review. This is primarily because I didn’t know how to feel after the end of the book. Unfortunately, this isn’t because the book was in any way overwhelming – but more because I felt the various elements – plot, style of writing, and in particular character action/motivation – didn’t really gel together. One minute it felt like I was reading one book, another minute, another book entirely. 

April & Oliver is not at all what I expected. For some reason I got the impression of a whirlwind romance occurring between two old friends, a sort of uplifting kind of novel. It is, in fact, extraordinarily depressing. It’s set after the funeral of April’s younger brother Buddy, and follows the tense and often melodramatic interactions between April and Oliver over the course of the following year.  Oliver is successful and has his life planned out, though he’s not sure it’s what he wants, while April moves from one bout of self-destruction to the next after years of domestic violence and sexual abuse. It’s definitely a character driven novel, but unfortunately I cared little for any of the, mostly one-dimensional, characters.  I think I probably liked the dog, Dubious, more than any of the humans.  At times, the connection and differences between the two title characters seemed authentic and justifiably difficult to reconcile, but a lot of the time they seemed rather more caught up in themselves, with their interactions doing little more than aggravating their individual problems, rather than illustrating an undeniable connection between them.  I could say a lot more on this, but I think my point has been made and this isn’t an essay.

Funnily enough, most people seemed to feel the ending was an anti-climax, or without closure. Personally, the ending was one of the few parts I liked, with the exception of Oliver walking into a random church and playing the organ – you’d get in trouble for that here I can assure you. However, it had a very Griffin-&-Sabine feel to it, and I liked that, because it was reminiscent of the other parts of the book where the author hints at a fundamental connection between the two main characters which can’t be explained by biology or psychology – it’s just there. Unfortunately those parts were few and far enough between to warrant any real romanticism in this novel, and again the end doesn’t save it overall, but I did like how it turned out.

All in all… a beautifully written mixed bag, and very readable despite its flaws, which is impressive for a first novel and spells definite promise for Callahan’s future works, if only she can figure out how to write one type of novel at a time.

Rating: 3/5