Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
Summary (from GoodReads): 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.
Thoughts: The characters are well drawn and realistic. Their story is heartfelt and compelling, even with some tedious discussions on feminism. Amelia is fifteen and totally in love with an older guy. It is easy to relate to her intense feelings, but it was really hard for me to read. She lost interest in school and became isolated. She thought about Chris all the time and based all of her decisions on her perceptions of him. I just wanted to say, "Amelia, honey. I know you think you love Chris, but let me give you some advice that my BFF Laura gave to me not too long ago: You're not in love with him, you're obsessed with him. There is a difference. Now get off of his Facebook." Chris is no better. A realistic character? Yes. But frustrating and incredibly immature.
I also hated (HATED) the romance between Amelia and Chris. Let me be clear that I don't think this book or these characters ever take it to a place that is inappropriate. There is a single drunken kiss. But they do develop real feelings for each other, which are far more problematic (which is the point of the story). I wanted the book to make me question what I believed about young girls dating older men, but the story only solidified my viewpoint (that high school girls shouldn't date men in their twenties). I also don't think Chris and Amelia love each other. They care about each other deeply, yes, but they have incredibly idealized views of each other. The Chris in Amelia's musings is not the same Chris we get to know through his diaries. Likewise, Amelia is something more when seen through Chris's eyes. Thinking they love each other is inevitable. Both characters are incredibly lonely. They both project the idea of a perfect lover onto the other, precisely because their love is impossible. If they can never truly be in love, then they never have to let go of that idealized lover.
While I couldn't cheer for the romance, I found it incredibly thought-provoking. Which is why the end left me completely frustrated. I know a lot of people felt that the end was perfect, but to me it wasn't an end. Amelia did not grow at all during the novel and none of her issues are resolved. It feels like she will go on doing what she has been doing the whole novel: Using an unattainable lover as an excuse not to live her life. If you have read the book and want more than that, e-mail me (realsteph [at] thefakesteph [dot] com), because I have plenty more to say.
Moments I Loved: There aren't any moments that stand out to me as scenes that I loved, but there are a number of moments that have stayed with me. One is the day after Chris and Amelia kiss. (MINOR SPOILERS) We get Amelia's point of view and she is just so naive. As an older reader, I knew exactly what Chris was thinking, making the scene painful and awkward. But the scene is incredibly well done! (END SPOILERS.)
WTF Moments: There were quite a few. Most of the people in Amelia's life treat her as inconsequential. Whenever this happened, I would get angry, then remind myself that Amelia also treats the people in her life (especially her best friend) as merely tangential to her own.
Overall: Incredibly well-written and thought-provoking. However, the end felt abrupt and unresolved and no matter how much I appreciate the story, I just didn't enjoy it.
Love and Other Perishable Items gets a FakeSteph rating of...