It's so hard to write about this book because this book is so beautifully written. Oola by 21-year-old debut author Brittany Newell is edgy, lyrical, and full of heart. This novel won't be for everyone, but in the right hands, its readers will fall in love.
The first thing Leif notices about Oola is the sharp curve of her delicate shoulders, tensed as if for flight. Even from that first encounter at a party in a flat outside of London, there’s something charged, electric about the way Oola, a music school dropout, connects with the cossetted, listless drifter of a narrator we find in twenty-five-year-old Leif. In love, infatuated, the two hit the road across Europe, housesitting for Leif’s parents’ wealthy friends, and finally settling for the summer in Big Sur.
Left to their own devices, a project begins. Leif makes Oola his subject: he will attempt an infinitesimal cartography of her every thought and gesture, her every dimple, every snag, every swell of memory and hollow. And yet in this atmosphere of stifling and paranoid isolation, the world around Leif and Oola begins to warp--the tap water turns salty, plants die, and Oola falls dangerously ill. Finally, it becomes clear that the currents surging just below the surface of Leif’s story are infinitely stranger than they first appear.
Oola is a completely original story of obsession gone wrong. In a strange hybrid between Lolita and Caroline Kepnes's You, the reader is sucked into the depths of Leif's fixation. Swept away by the young couple's whimsical sense of invincibility, you almost miss the madness that slowly seeps in as Leif builds a shrine of Oola. Observing her every move, capturing fallen strands of hair and used tissues - Leif's actions almost seem charming under the guise of Newell's gorgeous writing. It isn't until you set the book down that you realize the disturbing reality built by the two lovers.
Although, don't pick this book up with the expectation of a fiery and fast-paced story. This novel is entirely character-driven, a dive into the mind of someone in the throughs of obsession. It is raw and intense, and at times, brings into question the boundaries of gender. If you love character studies and passionate prose - this one is for you.