Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: Quarantine, A Love Story by Katie Cicatelli-Kuc

quarantinePublisher’s Book Description: Oliver wants a girlfriend, and there’s a girl back home who might be interested in him. The problem is, he has to spend his spring break on a volunteer trip in the Dominican Republic. Flora, on the other hand, isn’t really looking for a boyfriend. She just wants to end a miserable spring break visiting her dad and her new stepmom in the D.R.

The solution to both their problems? Get back home to New York ASAP. Sadly, they won’t be getting there anytime soon.

Their hopes are dashed when Flora’s impulsiveness lands them in quarantine — just the two of them. Now, the two teens must come together in order to survive life in a bubble for 30 days. In that time, love will bloom. But is it the real thing, or just a placebo effect?

In her debut novel, Katie Cicatelli-Kuc delivers an introspective and witty story about finding love in the most unexpected place.

Karen’s Thoughts:

Please note, there are some very real spoilers in this review as I explain to you why I can not in good faith recommend this book as a person who campaigns against sexual violence and for the importance of consent in relationships.

As someone who spends a lot of time advocating for consent education, I can not in good faith recommend this book, even though I believe it will have a lot of teen appeal. This love story begins when two strangers meet on an airplane and are placed in a quarantine hold for a short period of time. The girl, not wanting to return home, fakes being sick so that she will have to stay in quarantine for an additional 30 days. Not wanting to stay in quarantine alone, however, she grabs and kisses the teen boy against his will and knowing full well that he wants to go home and that he has a budding relationship on the horizon, forcing him to stay in quarantine with her for that 30 days. He has, effectively, been denied his free will and freedom by the selfish impulses of this girl and over the course of time, they fall in love. It’s kind of a reverse Beauty and the Beast story, a story that I stopped liking a long time ago because I do not believe that true love can be found in relationships where one person is basically holding another person prisoner.

To be honest, none of the females presented in this book are presented in an overly positive or redeeming light. Flora is presented as an authority who guides Oliver, often sharing with him truth bombs about life and relationships, but she herself is lost and floundering. She does exhibit growth over the course of the novel as they are both given a lot of time for introspection, but I could never get past what she did to Oliver. Oliver’s other love interest, Kelsey, is a selfish, fame obsessed young woman who uses Oliver’s new found notoriety to try and propel herself to social media stardom, spurred on in part by Flora who thinks she is trying to help Oliver nab the girl of his dreams.

Oliver starts out as a more naive and floundering young man, but he also grows. Towards the end as he starts to stand up for himself and express himself more fully, readers seem him becoming a more competent and fully fleshed character.

The most realistic part about this novel is the social media component. Flora and Oliver start the hashtag #Quaranteens and milk (and try to manipulate) their quarantine status for social media likes and for the most part it works; but as always life, truth and social media are more complicated than anyone can predict and it gets messy. This in particular is the part that I find teens will be most drawn to. It truly captures the social media zeitgeist.

I would have felt much differently about this book if at the end of the 30 days the teens would have grown, realized that what Flora did to Oliver was completely unconscionable and gone their separate ways. Alas, this is a love story and that is not what happens. Because this is a relationship that is built upon the very clear violation of one person’s ability to consent about what happens to their life – keep in mind, he is now forced to spend 30 days in a quarantine away from his life, friends and family – I can not get behind it or recommend it. Once the impetus for how these two teens were forced to spend time together became clear, I wanted to tap out of this book. I read it until completion to see if or how the issue was dealt with, and although they do at times talk about consent, I personally could never get past the very clear violation of consent that brought the two teens together.

Out of curiosity to see what other reviewers were saying about this book, I did some research. Booklist says this about this novel: “And since Flora, for some reason, laid one on Oliver after they met on the plane (a dramatic first kiss for them both), he’s stuck right there in quarantine with her. ” They go on to recommend it as a “a sweet, simple romance with a fun concept.” (Booklist, 1/01/2019, Maggie Reagan. 336p. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2019). Kirkus mentions the kiss but doesn’t even acknowledge any concern for an obvious lack of consent and the dramatic impact it has on Oliver’s life. I think it is unfortunate as book reviewers that we continue to fail to acknowledge problematic consent issues and recommend books that have them without any caveats.

I think the novel has a lot of teen appeal elements, but I personally don’t recommend it.

This book is slated to be published in March, 2019.