Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

Skeptic scale: ♥♥♥♥

New favorite question to ask when reading anything, including Justin Bieber's twitter feed: "What was the point of the whole series of events if not for the hero to mature?"

Amelia is 15 and possesses all the usual accouterments of a pre-adult girl: insecurity about her looks, a confused love/hate relationship with her family and an Australia-sized capacity for crushing on a boy. She's emotional and earnest and invests an inordinate amount of her teenage intensity in characters from classical literature. Gatsby and Daisy get some harsh reproach, as do the Pip/Estella/Mrs. Havisham trifecta from Great Expectations. She heaps special judgement on those characters she decides are weak-minded in their romantic affairs.

In one of her rants against the feeble-mindedness of one character in her literature books who is pining for the love of another she poses the question "What was the point of the whole series of events if not for the hero to mature?" What a perfect question for a teenager, nay any-ager, to ask! It's especially wonderful because thinking about an answer shows the hilarious mixture of self-reflection and self-blindness that every person - not just 15-year-old hormonal adolescents - have boiling up within them. 

Chris, the object of Amelia's adoration, is a charming, outgoing lad of 21 years. He is friend and mentor to Amelia, dazzling her with his worldliness and University-man panache. Of course, their love can never be. Their age gap makes it impossible and besides, he is playing Gatsby to another - a girl who has broken his heart and sentences him to "a lifestyle of soul-wrenching loneliness and sexual frustration." He is, as his sister points out, "pretty passionate about [his] unhappiness." Despite his many bad habits - drinking, drugs and an obsession with playing the "Field" (he capitalizes "the Field" in his diary) - Chris is a good boy. From his ramblings in his diary, we learn that he's a decent chap and I have great hopes that one day he'll be a good man. 
How Amelia tries to hide her feelings for Chris while simultaneously reaching out to him for company and friendship are adorable. Like watching a puppy try to climb down the stairs for the first time. You want her to succeed but are waiting for the tragi-comic tumble of fluff and fur that you are certain will take place. 

I really enjoyed the book. I initially had some reservations because I felt that apart from some sharp observations about how young people learn to love, not much actually happens in the book. But I see now that I was wrong. What was the point of the whole series of events if not for the hero to mature? I think, the story ended before true maturity takes hold - Amelia does learn a few things that will probably lead her to maturity eventually. But I am still waiting for the tumble down the stairs. Nevertheless, I left with the feeling that when the tumble does happen it won't be a bone-crushing one. Both characters will probably be changed by the experience, maybe even mature, but certainly not broken.

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