Monday, January 1, 2018

Review: A Taxonomy of Love - Rachael Allen

A Taxonomy of Love
Rachael Allen
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Amulet Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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.
In the introduction by the editor, this book was cited as a YA When Harry Met Sally, and I have to say, that was a great reference for this story of friendship, family, love, and growing up.
Fact: She makes bullies twice her size cower in fear (which suggests mind control, or at the very least, otherworldly bravery.)
I am a fan of male-female friendships, and this one was really special. When Hope and Spencer first met, I knew immediately that they would play a special part in each others lives. I loved that at 13 years old, Hope was able to see beyond Spencer's tics, and that Spencer was able to find a kindred spirit, who would listen to him talk about bugs and climb trees with him.
"Spencer, what are you looking at?" asks Pam.
Some things can stun you into absolute honesty. "The most beautiful girl I've ever seen."
Watching Hope grow and change over the years was tough. She started out as a sort of Luna Lovegood (her own description), and she was very precious when we first met her. Her life had quite a few major ups and downs, and she didn't always deal with them in the best way. I think I shed the most tears for her, but through it all, Spencer never gave up on her. *Crying*
"I was gonna go climb trees. You wanna come?"
From page 1, I was head over heels in love with Spencer. I knew when I started this book, that I would be spending several years with him, and the whole time I kept hoping that he would stay the sweet cupcake of a boy he was when I met him. I worried about him often, because things were not easy for Spencer. He experienced a lot of disappointments and was often targeted by bullies, but he was lucky enough to have some great people in his corner, who were looking out for him.
I hate how the swearing is what everyone things when they hear "Tourette's syndrome".
Recently, I have been reading more and more books featuring neurodivergent characters, but this is the first one I have read spotlighting Tourette's syndrome. Like Spencer laments, I have only really seen swearing TS characters and some with tics, but I was never aware of all the different symptoms some people experience or how physically taxing they could be. Allen did such a good job conveying Spencer's feelings and his personal struggles, and I appreciated the bit of education Allen gave me on that and on the "social model of disability".  Sometimes, it's good to have someone call my attention to such things, and I will admit, I went on to read more about both things.
"Yeah, and maybe it isn't about finding a way to make yourself fit," says Paul. "Maybe it's about finding the other people who don't fit the same way you don't fit."
As previously mentioned, Spencer didn't have it easy, but eventually, he found his tribe. It was quite a wonderful and eclectic group Allen assembled for him, and I also loved that they embraced this idea of not changing in order to fit in, but rather, finding people they fit with. It's a beautiful concept. I also got to see Spencer's relationship with his father and his brother improve, and his step mother and grandmother were always fabulous allies and supporters of his. In fact, I thought Mimi needed more page time, because she was one super-fabulous grandma.
Something falls out of the tree and splats against the rocks below. My heart. I'm pretty sure it's my heart.
My heart went splat quite a few times as I read this book. I got snippets of Spencer and Hope's lives from age 13 to 19, and it wasn't all sunshine and unicorns. Their friendship had many dark days. It evolved and changed as they evolved and changed. My heart broke, ached, and soared for these two. It was quite an emotional journey, which Allen wrapped up quite nicely. I pretty much jumped for joy reading the epilogue, because I got answers, and that is all I am ever asking for in an ending.
I was throwing away my dreams, and you were literally picking them up.
There were several things I loved about the format of this book. This book was broken up years, and each part highlights the major things that happened in Hope and Spencer's friendship. It's like a highlight reel, and I really got to see how their outlook on things changed as they matured. Most of the book is told in a narrative format from Spencer's point of view, which I loved, but we also got to be in Hope's head at times. Her POV was accomplished via emails and texts to her older sister, and they really added something special to the story.

Overall: A beautiful and honest look at how messy relationships can be, which took me through a full range of emotions, but in the end, left me elated.

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book. Quotes are from an ARC and may change upon publication.

Do you have a favorite male-female friendship?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. How have I not heard of this book? This sounds absolutely perfect for me and I definitely need to read it. I love books about messy and realistic relationships. I also love books with a focus on friendship and shows the ups and downs of the friendship. I'll have to request this from the library!
    Great review!

    1. Oh, it was messy, but they always held a little love for each other in their hearts, and MAN! I am getting tears in my eyes talking about it. I hope your library gets it, because it is definitely worth the read.

  2. Oh this is new to me but sounds amazing!!! How did I miss it??? Lovely review!

    1. It reminded me a little of Top Ten (which I loved), but it had more closure in the ending, and I think people with be happy with the linear timeline.

  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Sam! I loved it, too. I agree; it was tough watching Hope change over the years, but so touching how Spencer never gave up on her. What an awesome friendship, and I loved the timelines of the story, too! Wonderful review. <3

    Madalyn @ Novel Ink

    1. I am getting chills just thinking about it. There was that ONE plot point that I wish had been accomplished in a different way, with a different person, but I still loved it.

  4. I love a book that isn't afraid to sugar coat the reality of relationships. Great review!

    1. There were some real painful moments, but I loved every second of it.

  5. This sounds like such a good book, Sam! It sounds like the story was laid out really well. I will have to keep this one in mind.

    1. It was a great longitudinal study of their friendship, and all the ups and downs kept my heart involved the whole time. Loved it!

  6. Okay so I absolutely love the quotes you decided to highlight! They make me want to run out and buy this book asap. I love books focusing on male-female friendships too. I feel like there's not nearly enough of them, and I don't understand why - I've had so many wonderful friendships with guys over the years. I'm also glad to hear that Rachael conveys Tourette's syndrome well. Great review, Sam!

    1. I learned a ton from this book, but loved it mostly for all the feels. It did for me what Top Ten had but it had a linear timeline and more closure with the ending

  7. I didn't have a clue what this book was about but you know what, I seriously want to read it now. It sounds charming and reading about a character with Tourette's syndrome sounds good to me. I like the idea of them meeting young and seeing the progress of their friendship as they get older.

    1. It was sweet, charming, adorable, painful, but ultimately. left me very happy. It was such a rollercoaster ride being with these two over 6 years, but I loved it.