March 5th 2019 Sourcebooks Fire
I received this book from Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
I have so much to say about this wonderful book.
To summarize, this book follows a high school senior named Ariel as he deals with the overall stress of his senior year. Trying to become valedictorian and get into Harvard, while still maintaining his position as first chair violin in his school’s orchestra along with many other social and academic responsibilities ends up creating the most unmanageable workload ever seen by man.
This book is absolutely magnificent, and it resonated with me so strongly as I read it. It’s all about Ariel trying to achieve perfection in every area of his life. He’s taking a full course load of ridiculously difficult classes, he’s supposed to play a solo in his school band, and he’s also joining his friend in her non-school band. He volunteers, he has synagogue and other religious holidays, and of course, there’s supposed to be some time in there to fit in friends and romance.
Just to start with, I really loved how three dimensional Ariel was. All of his relationships and interactions were fleshed out and unique. You got to see his relationship with his parents, sister, and friends. Ariel’s bi, and we get to see the evolution of a romance that was also complex and unhurried. I especially loved how religion was such a huge part of Ariel’s identity, and how his Judaism interplayed with the other facets of his life.
I read this book in the middle of the semester, in the middle of a busy week. I normally don’t do that because school is so stressful, but this book was really captivating. And I’m glad I read it in the middle of a school week. Because in the week I read it 2 things happened.
One, I saw myself in someone. I’m a ridiculous overachiever myself, and it calmed me to see that trying to do everything at once isn’t something that is exclusive to me, which is something I sometimes feel.
Two, it helped me accomplish more that week, but in a non-stressful way. Usually, I try to do everything all at once, with the only acceptable outcome being perfection. But since I saw how that is literally not possible through Ariel’s actions, I tried taking things one goal at a time, trying not to stress too much over the time it was taking, or the weight it had on my grade.
There were many other things I appreciated about this book, the cute romance, the religious aspects, the familial relationships, the friendships, but this book was a masterpiece because it showed the interplay of all those things with school. It showed how anxious Ariel became, and how he worked himself until he bled (literally) to be the best.
Ariel is so afraid to ask for help the entire book. He’s in competition with the other candidate for valedictorian and refuses to think of a friendship with her because of what it might mean for his Harvard application if he let friendship get in the way of his GPA. This book did a wonderful job of showing me that I’m not alone in an area that often feels very isolating. I really want everyone to read it and love it, because this book just spoke to me on an emotional level.