by Laura Buzo
December 11, 2012
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.(Goodreads Summary.)
My Take On It
Well, it is no secret that I am a RAGING fan of contemporary Australian young adult fiction. I read as much as I can, even though some of it is notoriously hard to get a hold of here in the States. So when I heard that Laura Buzo's Good Oil, was picked up by Knopf BYR and being repackaged as Love and Other Perishable Items for an American audience, I was BESIDE myself. I had already read many raving Aussie reviews of Buzo's book, several of which compared her to my favorite author from that country, Melina Marchetta. Needless to say, Love and Other Perishable Items ranked quite high on my 2012 TBR list.
And, surprise, surprise, I was NOT disappointed. Those Aussie's are so bloody clever when it comes to writing authentic YA fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed Love and Other Perishable Items just as much as I hoped to. High five for meeting all my expectations, Laura Buzo!
Here is something I didn't know when I started reading: Love and Other Perishable Items is a dual narrative, told from both 15 year old Amelia and 21 year old Chris's POV. And though we hear from Amelia in 1st person, Chris's are written epistolary style, through journal entries. Guys, having Chris offer up his perspective in this fashion was really, really awesome. And smart on the part of the author. There comes a part of the story where Amelia herself gets to read these entries, and that, was my favorite apart of the entire book. What if you had an unrequited crush on someone when you were a young adult (and come on, we have all been there haven't we?) and then that person, who you have always wondered if they have even a fraction of the feelings that you harbor, let you read his private thoughts. Who wouldn't like to get into the mind of their first love?
Amelia is 15, and totally endearing. She's bright, she's funny, she's serious and she's a bit awkward. And she is head over heels in love with Chris. She obsesses and fantasizes about him. He is the center of her world and in her every thought. He is everything she wants in a guy: cute, funny, smart and most importantly, he takes Amelia seriously.
The yawning six year chasm between my age and Chris's is not the only fly in the proverbial ointment of this "loving Chris" business. I'm not even sure what "getting" Chris would involve; all I know is I want him. I want to be enfolded by him somehow, and to possess him. To have unfettered and exclusive access to him all the time. To feel how I feel around him all the time. To know that he loves being around me too. To feel more of his skin on my skin.
And Chris doesn't really treat her like a kid. He listens to her. They have amazing conversations about things she doesn't talk to anyone else about. Not her parents, or her friends, and certainly not the boys her age.
Each conversation with Chris seemed to prompt an exhausting mix of excitement an forehead-slapping embarrassment at my inability to keep up with the references and in-jokes. Real or perceived. I go to an all-girls school where people are bent on studying. I wasn't used to talking to boys at all, let alone grown-up ones with university essays to write and incredible charisma. So, so far out of my depth.
Chris is 21, and completely charming in a self absorbed, slacker kind of way. Chris has sort of been on autopilot ever since his break-up with his first, true love, Michaela. He still lives at home even though all his mates are getting their own places. He has the very definition of a dead end job with graduation and "the real world" looming just over the horizon. And he longs to find the perfect woman. One he can really talk to and laugh with and build, perhaps, some kind of future-something with. Oh, and have sex with. Because he and Michaela had amazing sex. In short, he is, in many ways your typical 21 year old, soon to be college graduate. He parties with his mates, works and studies just enough to get by, and is prone lately to moping around, feeling sorry for himself, and waiting for something "life changing" to happen to him.
And of all the people working with him at The Land of Dreams (Chris's nickname for the local grocery store he and Amelia work at) Amelia, the "Youngster", is by far his favorite to talk to. Unlike stoner Ed, or she's-big-she's-blonde-she-works-in-the-deli Georgia , or Street Cred Donna (yes, those are Chris's apt descriptions of some of their co-workers,) Amelia is smart. She's got serious, passionate opinions about all kinds of things, from classic literature to feminism. She's pretty mature and has a lot of good advice to give on certain subjects (like his screwed up love life.) Basically Amelia is the ideal woman that he is looking for. If only she was a few years older...
I really like talking to her. I like how she turns everything over and over in her mind, and that she doesn't censor herself. Being with her is easy. I seem to laugh......If she were even just two years older, she'd be leading the field.......But she ain't.
Guys, never has there been a more perfect example of meeting the right person at the wrong time. And you know what is also pretty cool about this book? Even though the age difference between Amelia and Chris is VAST (there is a world of difference between a 15 year old and 21 year old in terms of life experience, am I right?), Laura Buzo has written a book that makes you REALLY wish they could work it out somehow, some way (even though you know that it won't because that would be kind of GROSS, not to mention highly illegal) because the two of them have so much in common. There is MORE than a little potential between them romantically speaking. I guarantee you will find yourself kind of rooting for them even though you know you really shouldn't.
What I really love about this book is that it takes a realistic look at two young adults at very different stages of their lives. As an adult I have survived both stages. I have been that 15 year old girl crushing something fierce on an older guy I have no hope in hell of ever landing. I've been that girl who daydreams about love and finding that sensitive, yet hot, guy that TOTALLY gets me, like no one else does.
And I have been that college kid, staring down my last semester of college and wondering "what in the heck am I going to do next?" and "how I am I going to find a job to pay off all my student loans?" and "how will I make my mark on this world?"
And I have been that broken person, the one that has just been sucker punched by the person I thought loved me most, the person I thought got me. I've been that person who who wants nothing more then to move on, and in the same instant, wants nothing more than to go back.
So I both smiled and cringed at some of things that Amelia says and does. I've been there, remember? And I sighed and I ranted, and I shook my head sadly at some of the things Chris says and does. Again, been there. Done all of that.
That is the power of this quiet book. The power to relate to these simple and common life experiences. It is a true coming of age story in that it examines those pivotal moments we all face as we move from childhood to adulthood. There aren't any major dramas to be found in Love and Other Perishable Items. No one dies. No one goes to jail. No one has abusive families. That's not to say that those everyday, common moments don't seem big at the time. While you are living them they feel monumental. And Love and Other Perishable Items captures all of those moments that feel so monumental just beautifully.
And another plus, Laura Buzo doesn't cast off the other relationships in the lives of young Amelia and Chris as she tells their story. Chris's close knit family is represented. As is Amelia's strained relationship with her best friend Penny, and her life at home with her parents and baby sister. An interesting little side story concerning Amelia's parents, and the differences that each shoulder in regards to domestic responsibilities, is also examined. That tangent did tend to swerve off a little from the main story at hand, but I really liked that it was another topic of discussion between Amelia and Chris and further fleshed out each of their character's personal philosophies. Besides, any time an author can insert some relevant social issues (like division of labor on the domestic front) into a book targeted for a young adult audience I say, BRAVA.
So, how does it all end? Do they find a way to work out the age difference? Or do they just remain friends? Does Chris find a way to move on and mend his broken heart? Or does he break Amelia's heart in the end? I won't give any of it away but I will say that I personally loved the ending. It was absolutely pitch perfect and had it ended any other way I don't think I would have liked this book as much as I did. That is not to say that I would turn my nose up at a future sequel featuring Amelia and Chris... :) I'll say no more on that note (but if you have read the book and want to talk further about YOUR thoughts on the ending or a possible sequel, I'd be happy to elaborate on mine:)
In summary, I found Love and Other Perishable Items to be a funny and touching look at those everyday moments in life that we all experience: falling in love, having your heart broken, and figuring out who you are as a person outside of your family, school and work. Once again, I'm blown away by yet another contemporary Australian author. I'm planning on picking up Buzo's sophomore effort Holier Than Thou as soon as I can.
Find Laura Buzo here: Goodreads
Read more reviews of Love and Other Perishable Items
(Some of these reviews are listed under the Australian title: Good Oil.)
Wear the Old Coat
Jen Ryland/ YA Romantics
The Grown Up YA
Secrets and Sharing Soda
Alpha Reader (Interview w/ L. Buzo (and yes, she addresses a possible sequel to Love and Other Perishable Items.)