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A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen

Tuesday, January 09, 2018 Geraldine Lee 0 Comments

The Breakdown

General Info:
     Title: A Taxonomy of Love 
     Author: Rachael Allen
     Genre: Contemporary, YA 
     Publisher: ABRAMS Kids
     Publishing Date: 9th January, 2018

          -  Emphasis on family 
          - Gives a voice for people with Tourette's Syndrome and their close relatives and friends
    Things that could have been better:
         - Plot was very typical of normal YA books

Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | 

Initial Thoughts

I was hooked by the book synopsis; a character with Tourette's Syndrome. The cover was gorgeous, and the first few pages were interesting, so I knew I had to request this title from Netgalley! Many thanks to ABRAM Kids, who approved my request to receive an advanced copy of A Taxonomy of Love
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.


I love how we had a protagonist with Tourette's Syndrome. Reading is a gateway towards understanding others' lives, and I felt like we got a good taste of what it might be like to have Tourette's Syndrome. A Taxonomy of Love covers many aspects of disability, ranging from the medication schedules, side-effects, and experimentation, to the stigma experienced. I particularly appreciated how Allen showed that disability isn't necessarily a hindrance towards a 'normal' life. 
However, unfortunately, I don't think A Taxonomy of Love is a particularly memorable book. As a contemporary novel, it blends into the background of all other contemporary YA novels, despite its strong, intriguing protagonist. For me, A Taxonomy of Love followed the same formulaic structure that most contemporary YA novels follow: childhood friends, high-school angst, with an eventual romantic relationship. The only thing that really makes this book stand out would be the character's diagnosis of Tourette's Syndrome. 
Many contemporary YA novels fail to address a key aspect of many teenagers' lives; family. I love how A Taxonomy of Love was not one of these novels, with the strong emphasis on Spencer's parents and grandmothers. I also really appreciated Allen tackling Spencer's difficulty in obtaining his father's approval and his feelings of inferiority to his brother. Coming from a family where there are three girls - I constantly felt like I had to fight with my sisters for my parent's attention and approval, and I loved how Allen addressed this, particularly as Spencer has Tourette's Syndrome, which I would imagine would compound these feelings of inferiority, as Allen continually repeats in the book. 
At times, it did feel like I was reading a middle-grade novel - but this was mostly in the first half of the book. I did feel like this book is less accessible who people who aren't familiar with the U.S. schooling system - I was unsure what age the characters were due to the distinct U.S. take on this story, and so I initially thought this book was more middle-grade oriented. 

Final Thoughts

All in all, A Taxonomy of Love is a wonderful take on a protagonist with Tourette's Syndrome, that is ultimately marred by a predictable plot, which reduces this tale down to a simple story that is twisted by high-school love and drama. If the entire plot of this story didn't rest on Spencer's obsession on Hope, I think I would have enjoyed this story a lot more, as it would have seemed less juvenile. 
Nevertheless, A Taxonomy of Love is still a good read for anyone who would like to understand Tourette's Syndrome a bit more. 


This is based off my Goodreads review, which ranks the book by its characters, plot, writing style and entertainment value. 

Thoughts in a Phrase 

Strong characters that are ultimately let down by a predictable plot

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