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Hard Love

by Ellen Wittlinger

ISBN 0689821344 / 9780689821349 / 0-689-82134-4
Publisher Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Language English
Edition Hardcover
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Book summary

John Galardi is a loner, unable to express his feelings except in the pages of his zine, "Bananafish." He finds inspiration in another zine, "Escape Velocity," created by Marisol Guzman, a self-proclaimed "rich spoiled lesbian private-school gifted-and-talented writer virgin." Her sharp observations make John laugh out loud and he decides he must meet this witty author. By planting himself in Tower Records the day she drops off the latest issue, John manages to arrange a coffee date that extends over several Saturday mornings. They discuss everything from John's inability to feel and his parent's divorce to Marisol's problems with her suffocating adoptive parents. When Marisol casually tells John that she likes him, he is flabbergasted: "Honest to God a shiver ran through my body... Nobody ever said that they liked me. Ever. Not even [my friend] Brian, who probably actually doesn't." After a disastrous "just friends" junior prom date and a weekend zine conference spent together, John realizes that his feelings for Marisol are more than platonic. And Marisol, who is exploring her identity as a young lesbian, has no idea how to let John down gently without losing her new best friend.

Like Barbara Wersba's Whistle Me Home, Hard Love tackles the delicate issue of unrequited love between a straight and gay teen. But what sets this novel apart from similarly themed books is Wittlinger's choice to present the story from John's straight male point of view. Funny and poignant first-person narration will engender empathy for John as he attempts to connect with his emotionally distant parents and an understanding of how his need for their affection has manifested itself in romantic feelings for a girl he knows is unavailable to him. Hard Love is a thoughtful and on-target addition to the growing canon of gay and lesbian coming-of-age stories. (Ages 12 and older) --Jennifer Hubert [via]