“Love and Other Perishable Items” by Laura Buzo
As a YA writer, I thought it beneficial to start reading more in my genre in the New Year. LOPI was the first to capture my attention when I went on a book run for two reasons. A) I liked the cover (how superficial of me), and B) it’s a story about a younger girl who has a crush on an older boy. I thought maybe I could relate to it considering I met my fiancé when I was 16 and he was 21.
This is Buzo’s début novel and was a William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist. So it seems it’s gotten a lot of good press.
Ultimately, it was far from my favorite book. I’m not even sure I liked it. I did like parts of it, but as a whole, I’m not really a huge fan.
The story is set in Australia (where the author is from) mainly in a grocery store called “Coles” and follows 15-year-old Amelia and her relationship with her crush, the much older 21-year-old Chris. LOPI is more character driven than plot.
The narration is split between first person Amelia and Chris’s journal entries.
Amelia is an interesting character. She’s really the picture of innocence when it comes to social interactions: never had a boyfriend, doesn’t know what a ‘bowl’ refers to, doesn’t fit in with her co-workers—both young and old—and is a little behind in development even with her best friend Penny in relation to boys—that could be chalked up to her laser-focused attention on Chris drowning out all other possibilities. But, she has a much older intelligence. Most of Chris and Amelia’s conversations revolve around her analysis of the books she’s reading for her English class and her views about feminism. Those passages are really where I grew to like her as a character.
Chris doesn’t have a lot of flavor for me. I kind of liked him before I got to his journal entries. He initially seemed like a genuine person who was trying to fulfill some older brother role for Amelia that she was misinterpreting as romantic interest. Later, he just became too self-centered. His entries revolve around this search for the perfect woman, and it’s him cycling through different female options to fulfill that role while pinning away for the one he thought was it. He entertains the idea of Amelia briefly but dismisses the idea because of her age, yet he doesn’t adjust his behavior after that decision. He still pays far too much attention to what she’s doing and who with, ultimately giving Amelia false hopes.
While some of the conversations where interesting, and I really liked Amelia outside of her crush on Chris, the book was really lack luster for me.
I will say one thing, Buzo does accurately depict what it’s like for a young girl going through her first crush. I also found the Chris and Amelia’s family dynamics interesting, and while I don’t like Chris, I can relate to him as a liberal arts major scared about his future.
I didn’t like how Chris’s idea of the perfect woman was very objectifying. He says he’s interested in Amelia for their conversation and the way she makes him think, but with every other romantic interest, they revolve around sex. I’m sure if Amelia was older, he’d think of her in those terms as well. Even his lost love, he describes the deepness of that relationship on the basis that the sex was good and she cried during it. Really? He never describes any kind of meaningful conversations, shared interests, or anything with substance. It was more about how she smelled and felt when they were together. Blegh.
As for Amelia, she has a lot of strong opinions about things and isn’t afraid to vocalize those opinions, but when she’s being chastised—a little too harshly in my opinion—by Chris, she doesn’t say anything back, which I felt was out of character, considering all her feminist rants.
On the writing level, I really disliked the written vocalizations. I only highlighted one, “Ahhhgow,” but there were many.
I give it 2 out of 5 stars.
Next up: Neil Gaiman's "American Gods"