Tash Hearts Tolstoy follows Tash, a girl who – as you can probably figure out from the title – has a great love of Leo Tolstoy and his works. Together with her friends she has created a humble web-series that adapts the story of Anna Karenina into the modern day. (Basically, think The Lizzie Bennett Diaries but way more Russian). After a famous YouTuber finds their series and gives them a shout out, Tash and her series Unhappy Families are suddenly thrust into Internet stardom.
And fame certainly has it’s downsides, as Tash soon learns.
If you’re not a huge fan of web-series, don’t worry. While the story often revolves around Tash and her friends making the web-series that’s not the whole focus. Yes, dealing with their new found fame and the stress that comes with a rabid Internet fandom is a big part of things. But Tash’s story is just about her own journey to really understand herself — and the ever changing roles her friends and family play in her life.
Throughout the book, she struggles with how to fulfill her dreams and manage her expectations for herself. Like so many high school students entering their senior year, Tash is contemplating college and what comes next. And like so many teenagers she’s trying to reconcile her own needs and wants with those of her friends.
What makes Tash’s story unique and so incredibly important, though, is her growing acceptance of her sexuality throughout the book. Or, rather, her lack of interest in sex. Tash is the first truly asexual or aromantic main character I’ve come across in not just a young adult book, but any book. I’m sure there have been a few here and there. But while young adult fiction is embracing diverse characters who celebrate their sexuality and gender identities there has been very little asexual representation.
Tash Hearts Tolstoy gives asexual teenagers an amazingly creative young heroine in who they can see themselves. Tash finds herself struggling at first with her lack of interest in sex – something that society generally seems to indicate is wrong. As she grows more confident, she begins to accept herself. And when challenged by other people who question her sexuality she stands her ground and stands up for herself.
It’s a great message for asexual teenagers who may feel pressured by peers. Just because you’ve never had sex or don’t enjoy it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you or that you just haven’t met the right partner yet. Through Tash, Kathryn Ormsbee validates all those feelings that asexual teens have and shows them someone else who has gone through that journey of self discovery and acceptance. And at the end of the day, Tash’s asexuality is never the most important thing about her. She’s talented and determined and has a ton of meaningful relationships outside of the romantic realm.
Basically, Tash Hearts Tolstoy is much more than just a book about a girl and her friends making a web-series.
Fans of young adult contemporary books should find a lot to love about Tash Hearts Tolstoy. Some parts of the book fall into some familiar tropes but its web-series focus and refreshingly unique take on teenage romance and sexuality set it apart from the rest.
Ultimately, it’s just a fun book to read with a great main character, relatable secondary characters, and a story that offers a more positive look at the Internet subculture most of us have grown up in. I definitely recommend it!