Love is awkward, Amelia should know.
From the moment she sets eyes on Chris, she is a goner. Lost. Sunk. Head over heels infatuated with him. It's problematic, since Chris, 21, is a sophisticated university student, while Amelia, is 15.
Amelia isn't stupid. She knows it's not gonna happen. So she plays it cool around Chris—at least, as cool as she can. Working checkout together at the local supermarket, they strike up a friendship: swapping life stories, bantering about everything from classic books to B movies, and cataloging the many injustices of growing up. As time goes on, Amelia's crush doesn't seem so one-sided anymore. But if Chris likes her back, what then? Can two people in such different places in life really be together?
Through a year of befuddling firsts—first love, first job, first party, and first hangover—debut author Laura Buzo shows how the things that break your heart can still crack you up.
Library Binding, 256 pages
Expected publication: December 11th 2012 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published August 1st 2010)
Four Stars: A contemplative read that shares with us the difficulties of love in those awkward teenage years.
Amelia is mature for fifteen. She takes on a part time job after school to help with financial expenses and escape her despairing home life. Life at home isn't terrible, but her mother is in a constant state of despair, her father is working and absent a great deal of the time, and her older sister just went away to school. Leaving Amelia and her three year old sister at home. Her mother is overworked and depressed and the house is shrouded in smoke because her parents are always smoking indoors despite Amelia's objections. When Amelia starts work, she is trained by Chris a twenty one year old with an infectious personality. The two hit it off and become friends. Amelia is drawn to Chris and soon is head over heels in love with this older boy. Though, they spent countless hours discussing literature and weighty topics, Chris views her as a kid and he is unwilling to date her even though he is attracted to her intelligence. Can a couple with such a vast age difference find a way to make it work?
What I Liked:
- I think many of us would prefer to forget those awkward first teenage crushes. During those tender teenage years we are willing to put our hearts on the line and ultimately we deal with a painful heartbreak or two. Though, we learn a great deal from these tender struggles, we tend to look back and feel grateful that we survived those bumbling first loves. Ms. Buzo brilliantly brings us a story of a fifteen year old hopelessly in love with an older boy. All the missteps, flirtation, crushing and more. I loved the way she captures all the emotions and the difficulties that ensue with teenage love.
- This story is told with a dual narrative: Amelia and Chris. Amelia is the main narrator and Chris' view point is told through journal entries. I liked both characters but I was drawn to Chris. In fact from the first meeting, I was crushing on him. For me, Chris is a reminder of one of my all time literary crushes: Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. Holden is a difficult character and certainly won't appeal to everyone, but for me he is brilliant. Chris is in the same vein. He is twenty one, bitter after a devastating heart break and floundering to find true meaning in life and figure out his path. He is intelligent, funny and quick to share his lengthy ideas on all types of topics from feminism, to love and heartache, and all the social ills plaguing society. Both characters are flawed and a bit broken and awkward and both are trying to find love. I liked that I saw the funny, outgoing Chris through Amelia's eyes. He is a boy who exudes confidence, but then in his own words, I was able to see underneath the facade and find the true boy. His journal entries are extremely revealing and I loved the depths I was able to explore. Underneath it all, Chris is actually insecure and angry and sad and scrambling to make it in the world, just like everyone else.
- I loved that the plot of this story is all over the map. I expected to get a light, sweet love story when picking this up and I was pleasantly surprised to find this is a complex and real story that may not have turned out as everyone hopes, but in the end, it has a realistic and open ending that will leave you pondering on Amelia and Chris' futures. If you are looking for a book with a straightforward story line with a sweet romance, you may be disappointed with this one. For me, it is the perfect portrayal of the complexities and difficulties that teenagers experience as they fall in love.
- Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed the many in depth discussions that Chris and Amelia have on all types of topics. A couple of my favorites were: feminism, I found that one to be particularly eye opening and insightful, and I also liked the talks they had over Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I, too, found that book to be a bit irritating and loved hearing Chris' analysis of it. The topics are interesting and entertaining and real, too.
And The Not So Much:
- This book left me feeling a bit melancholy at the end. The ending isn't particularly sad, and it isn't a cliffhanger (Thank Goodness) instead it is a bittersweet and somewhat hopeful ending that is left open for the reader to decide. I am looking at this optimistically and I would like to believe that someday down the road things will turn out as I hope, but for now, life is complicated and love is not easy and one can only cross their fingers and wish on a few stars sometimes and hope everything works out, and that is the case for Amelia and Chris.
- Again, if you are not a fan of books like Catcher in the Rye or more recently Me, Earl and The Dying Girl, this may not work for you. I am a big fan of these types of books. They have meandering plots and tend to have strong opinions on social issues and running commentaries on anything and everything. I personally love the complexity of books like this one, so it was a great read for me. This is not a sweet, fluffy typical teenage romance book, but it is special indeed!
Love and Other Perishable Items is a book that I would definitely like to reread so I can once again appreciate the depth of both Amelia and Chris' characters. I adore Chris and his witty dialogue and enjoyed peeling back his layers to see that underneath his charming and confident exterior, he is just as confused and intimidated when it comes to life and love as the rest of us. This book explores the awkwardness of teenage love and the difficulties that can ensue. It is one of those reads that will stick with me. I truly hope that someday there might be a sequel.
"I," he said, "am Chris, your friendly staff trainer. You'll be with me for three four-hour shifts. I will call you grasshopper and you will call me sensei, and I will share with you what I know. Right?"
"And my other sister has just turned three."
"I know." "Contraception doesn't work in the top drawer." "My parents know that now."
"You're pretty passionate about your unhappiness, aren't you, Chris?" I looked right back at her and said, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well."
"Don't try to understand other people's marriages, darling, even your parents'. You'll be lucky if your understand your own."
"Men are bastards. You can't trust any of them. No matter how genuine they seem."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.
Thanks to the great folks over at Random House Publishing, I am able to offer a chance to win a paperback copy of Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo. Please fill out the Rafflcopter to enter see Contest Policies for all details. This is open to U.S. residents only. Good Luck!
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