1 August 2013, Scholastic Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com, where I am automatically approved. Thank you!
Laura is spending a semester in Leningrad in 1982 because she is a Russian studies major at Brown. It’s cold, the food is bad, and the locals aren’t exactly friendly, until she meets Alyosha when he saves her from begging gypsy women. The two hit it off, and Laura gets to see a side of Russia previously unavailable to her. Alyosha is an artist who has run afoul of his father and makes his living painting movie posters. He and Laura travel around, fall in love, and eventually make plans to be married. Laura knows that this is fraught with complications, since the USSR won’t let Alyosha out quickly, but he assures her that by the time she graduates, he will be in the US and they can move to San Francisco. The course of true love, however, never runs smoothly, and circumstances keep them apart.
Strengths: Cannot really do this one justice. Standiford spent a semester in Russia, and it clearly shows. The details of life in the USSR at this time are starkly but richly portrayed. I don’t know if Standiford loved and lost in Russia, but she must have known someone who did. The best romances are always the ones that end. This is brilliant and so sad!
Weaknesses: This one is a tad YA, but fairly tame. There is one scene at the very end that’s slightly more descriptive—clothes are removed and the two get into bed, but there’s nothing overly graphic. I’m thinking that if one of my girls gets through all of the thirty year old Russian history details, this is a tame reward!
And the cover... not 1980s. Sigh. To be expected.