The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too. Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.
A Taxonomy of LoveFeatured
Then, when Spencer is thirteen-years-old, a beautiful, cool, smart girl moves in next door. Hope is the same age as Spencer, and she treats him like a real human being. In fact, they become friends--best friends.
A TAXONOMY OF LOVE by Rachael Allen follows Spencer and Hope from age 13 to 19. The story of their friendship is a standard one with ups and downs, crushes and jealousies, intimacies and periods of not speaking, and hurts, triumphs, and dramas. Spencer's struggles to work through the challenges presented by Tourette's syndrome add an extra layer to all aspects of the story without overwhelming it. Spencer is the primary narrator of A TAXONOMY OF LOVE, and his voice is great. His and Hope's relationships with their families, friends, and each other all ring true, and the varied problems faced by them and the other characters in the book ensure an opportunity for engagement for most readers. The taxonomies/flow charts that Spencer draws as he works out things that bother or interest him are little bonus sections that make the story all the more fun. I'm especially happy that there's a book out in the world that allows teens with Tourette's syndrome to see themselves in literature in an overwhelmingly positive light. Spencer's Tourette's is a part of his life, of course, but it definitely doesn't define him.
I really enjoyed hanging out with Spencer, his friends, and his family. A TAXONOMY OF LOVE is well written and character driven, and it makes me want to read everything else that Rachael Allen has written.
My thanks to the publisher and YA Books Central for a copy of the book in exchange for my unbiased review.
A unique main character
Spencer is a lonely boy with Tourette's when he meets Hope. He's learned to categorize people into the ones who make fun of him or shy away from him and the ones who don't. To his surprise, Hope is the latter. She is everything he needs. A friend, a protector, a confident. But growing up tends to complicate relationships between boys and girls. As they age, Spencer falls deeper in love with the friend he thinks will never be his. They go through many years of heartache until they're ready to finally be who they're meant to be.
What I loved:
This book made me cry and I love to cry when reading because it means I've made an emotional connection. There are things that happen in these pages that just gut the reader. It's easy to feel sorry for Spencer. There's so much emotion packed into these pages. A lot of the things that happen are things anyone who is or has been a teenager can relate to. The author perfectly depicts those awkward years.
The best part was the treatment of Spencer's Tourettes. Anyone who has ever been different can relate. The reader gets an inside look at every cruel remark or embarrassing moment and Spencer's strength in dealing with them.
What was just okay:
Neither Spencer or Hope were particularily likable, especially Hope - even before the tragedy. So much of the drama could have been cleared up with just a little honesty and some of the things she did or choices she made didn't make much sense.
The book is written in quite a young style for characters who are having some of the raw experiences for the first time. That being said, I still read it in one day.
A cute story of longing throughout the awkward teenage years that packs an enormous amount of emotional punch.