A Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael Allen
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: January 9, 2017
Summary: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.
*Received an ARC from Barnes & Noble B-Fest*
My Rating:★★★☆☆ ½
My Thoughts: A Taxonomy Of Love is a plot-driven + complex YA Contemporary that brings such depth to its main characters and weaves in numerous themes of grief, loss, friendship, love and family. The unique format + expansive timeline that unravels, really make Allen’s A Taxonomy Of Love stand out!
What really stayed with me after I finished A Taxonomy Of Love was the writing and how it allowed me to really connect to the main character, Spencer Barton.
Not only was it refreshing to read a YA Contemporary from a male POV, but I’d also never read about a main character with Tourettes before.
A Taxonomy Of Love follows Spencer at 13 up until 19 yrs old as we follow his life and unforgettable friendship with his new neighbor Hope Birdsong.
From their friendship as 13-year olds in middle school, journey through high school, etc. I loved being able to follow these characters through the ups and downs of their life across a wide timeline.
A Taxonomy Of Love really stood out to me because of how its told. Not only through the engaging 1st person POV, but also through the 6-year timeline. For a standalone, I feel that can’t be easy, but Allen executed it in such a way, where it all flowed well and you really see the progression and growth of the main character Spencer.
There are also illustrations of Taxonomies that allow Spencer to make sense of new situations + the world, but also the in-between chapters with letters and messages from Hope. These additions really added more to the story and allowed me to learn a different side to these characters.
The story starts when Spencer meets Hope at 13 when she moves in next door and become friends almost instantly. However misunderstandings arise when its clear they both have feelings for one another but can’t seem to find their way to each other.
Then tragedy strikes Hope and her family when her older sister Janie passes away. We see how they slowly begin to grow apart. Spencer + Hope find their friendship slowly fading away as the years go by. Misunderstandings and misfortune keep them unsure if they’ll ever really reconnect with each other.
Now as to why I rated this book 3.5 stars, my biggest issue was that the time-jumps. It never felt like I got to fully know these characters (aside from Spencer) or feel extremely connected to the story itself because it felt plot points and development would be rushed through. I also felt it dragged particularly through uneventful or average everyday events if that makes sense?
Even when important themes of love, loss and social issues (such as racism) are discussed, the abruptness of the chapters + various time-jumps made it really difficult for me to really feel connected to these important story elements.
As for the diversity represented in this novel, as I mentioned before we have the main character Spencer Barton who has Tourettes + Jayla, Spencer’s girlfriend, who is black. There is also light discussion of mental health, when the passing of Hope’s sister is mentioned and she talks about going to a support group + when Spencer begins medication that helps with his Tourettes. (Though I can’t personally say whether Tourettes was accurately represented, overall it was great to see that represented in YA! + Ablesit language was challenged~)
Not only did I read how Spencer’s Tourettes influenced his life and impacted his confidence (as he mentioned people bullied him when he was younger), but also that friends, such as Hope would give him the patience and support he needed. Throughout the novel its clear that Spencer has friends, family, and people in his life who will support + understand him.
Overall it was also great to see him gain so much confidence in himself and learn to navigate and better understand the complex friendships + relationships in his life, throughout those 6 years. He grew so much as a character and I found myself rooting for him & Hope!
An aspect of this novel that I really loved was the various messages Allen weaved into the story. There’s grief, family, independence and friendship that are such important themes throughout the story as we follow Spencer and Hope’s story. Not only were they portrayed pretty well, but they really stuck with me as I progressed through the story.
There was also illustrations of taxonomies that just add more to the story itself and letters from Hope that really allow her to come to life.
A Taxonomy Of Love is a complex YA Contemporary that spans across a rather big timeline as we follow Spencer + Hope and their complicated, but powerful relationship. Important themes of love, loss, and growth weave their way into the story. Allen’s writing really brings such depth to the main character of Spencer and brings his story to life!