Tolstoy vs. YouTube | Book Review

29414576Tolstoy stole my heart at seventeen. Anna Karenina revived my soul and ignited a love for Russian culture that has steadily kindled for years. The premise of a modernisation of Anna Karenina as an amateur web series was too promising to resist. Unfortunately, the premise was the only consistent and worthwhile feature in this book.

I imagined I would overcome my boredom and distance from the main character, Tash, but I never did. I never felt like I knew her or any of the characters. They felt like cardboard cut-outs placed onto a set that failed to be properly developed. In addition to the overall lack of development, some of the dialogue felt clunky to the point of unrealism, which heightened my feeling of isolation to the characters.

The writing wasn’t bad per se, more unpractised or unrefined. I felt like the scenes didn’t flow together and that the plotting was nearly non-existent. The things that did happen seemed to be over the top and inconsistent with the supposed focus of the book – the web series. I thought it would focus more on that and how being an amateur and learning about your passion is scaring and exciting, but it brushed over the intricacies of filming a web series and made it out to be that Tash was already a pro filmmaker and the actors all magnificent at seventeen.

It felt overboard to introduce so many threads to such a short novel. There wasn’t enough space to explore anything fully because there was too much stuffing. The asexuality perspective was probably the fullest focus of the novel, which was surprising since it popped out of nowhere about halfway through the novel. The threads that felt undeveloped included the pressure of internet fame, ambitions and pitfalls of filmmaking as a passion, big sister graduating and moving to college, Tash’s relationship with the Harlow family, the Harlow’s dad’s battle with cancer, the Golden Tuba awards, the unexpected pregnancy, the budding flirtation, and the anxieties preceding the final year of high school.

This is starting to sound overly negative, despite the fact that I didn’t actually hate this. I just would’ve appreciated more depth on some of the threads of the story rather than a culmination of face-value plot points. What is left after the shallowness of this novel is a light-hearted contemporary that gives a unique perspective regarding internet fame and filmmaking. I adored the references to Anna Karenina and Leo Tolstoy, and Tash’s love for Tolstoy felt like genuine adolescent dorkiness. This book felt geared towards the Tumblr and YouTube generation (of which I was a part) so it wasn’t difficult for me to fall into the internet environment.

Whilst this book resembles nothing of the Russian master, the crumbs of Tolstoy make this blithe contemporary enjoyable and a unique addition to the contemporary genre with its focus on asexuality and internet fame.

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