Review: April & Oliver by Tess Callahan

Title: April & Oliver
Author: Tess Callahan
Series: none
Publisher: Hachette Book Group (Grand Central)
Date: 7/20/2012
Pages: 326
ISBN: 9780446540605
Source: Complimentary copy from publisher in exchange for an honest review
Purchase: Amazon

Goodreads Summary:

Best friends since childhood, the sexual tension between April and Oliver has always been palpable. Years after being completely inseparable, they become strangers, but the wildly different paths of 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. Even as Oliver attempts to “save” his childhood friend from her grief, her menacing boyfriend and herself, it soon becomes apparent that Oliver has some secrets of his own — secrets he hasn’t shared with anyone, even his fiancee.

But April knows, and her reappearance in his life derails him. Is it really April’s life that is unraveling, or is it his own? The answer awaits at the end of a downward spiral…towards a surprising revelation.

My Thoughts:

There’s something so tragic, so unsettling, about books like April & Oliver because they’re full of speculation, full of disquieting what ifs; I know this quality is something lots of people are not fond of. But personally, books like these are my favorite type of book to read.

Why? Because they’re honest. Because they’re real. April & Oliver contains unrepairable fragments and loose strings that the characters themselves both fail and refuse to resolve, and these aspects are what make it so beautiful and so honest-to-life. The novel begins in tragedy and ends in tragedy, though from a different perspective, you could say it begins and ends with hope. This blurry, undefined line between demise and promise encompasses the entire novel.

I think it’s pretty predictable how the passing seasons following Oliver and April’s reunion will turn out. A year together of ‘sexual tension’, as the book describes, is bound to lead somewhere. But that journey, the intimately and intricately carved journey is what makes the ending worthwhile. Even though I knew what was coming, I wasn’t at all disappointed. And even the end isn’t really an end, if that makes sense. Callahan cleverly weaves the perfect conclusion, that still allows the characters to live on in the readers’ minds.

All the characters, especially but not only April and Oliver, are extremely flawed, extremely screwed up in their own ways, but these blemishes and bruises are what make them so exquisite. I love each and every one of them, even the antagonist, April’s traumatizing and traumatized boyfriend, TJ. I ached when their hearts broke and laughed when they triumphed. Callahan does a great job at delving into the characters deeply, confidentially. What I didn’t like is how there isn’t really enough backdrop for Oliver nor April. We slowly learn of their circumstances as the book progress via sporadic memories and grievances, but the book begins by going straight to their secrets and shortcomings, so it was a little too much and confusing at first.

A a whole, though, April & Oliver has got to be one of my new favorites. Callahan’s writing style is incisive and marvelously clever — descriptive and compelling throughout. The characters’ pasts are chilling, shocking, and grimy, but in this imperfection, there is nothing but beauty. This sordid, bold story that isn’t at all about romance, but about family, identity, and inevitable other halves, will leave readers breathless and invigorated. For me, what’s so revering is that, even after years apart and after what they’ve convinced themselves of otherwise, April will always be Oliver’s favorite what if, and he will always be her chosen always. In Callahan’s beautifully disturbing, stormy, and everlasting chronicle, they are brought to life; in print, they live on forever.


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  1. Christine Jacobs says:

    Just finished book last night and loved it for all the reasons you state! My fave type of book too (=

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