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Hard love
Book
1999
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Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-John, "a witty misanthrope," meets and falls for zine writer Marisol, a "rich spoiled lesbian private-school gifted-and-talented writer virgin looking for love." A bittersweet tale of self-expression and the struggle to achieve self-love. (July) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-12. John spends weekends with his fair-weather, playboy father and the rest of the week with an emotionally fragile mother, who hasn't touched him since his father left them. She would rather let a jar shatter on the floor than brush against her son's fingers. Although he believes himself to be "immune to emotion," he reveals his loneliness and alienation in his zine, Bananafish. When he forces a meeting with Marisol, a testy, gifted, and talented senior, who is the author of his favorite zine, Escape Velocity, he finds exactly what he hoped for--a kindred spirit. This unique, magical, and sometimes awkward friendship leads to love, at least for John. The feeling is not mutual; Marisol is a lesbian. Through warmth and connection, wreckage and pain, lies and truths, and a whole lot of writing back and forth, John discovers he has feelings after all. Theme, plot, conflict, pacing--everything works in this extraordinarily sophisticated, multilayered book. John's voice is an exceptional balance of wry, caustic wit and aching vulnerability. Both John and Marisol are interesting and deeply attractive young people, replete with quirks, flaws, and complex emotional content. Even minor characters on the edges of the story are wonderfully crafted and convincing. Teenagers should be prepared to laugh, wince, rage, weep, and heave at least one deep sigh when they read this meaningful story. Highly recommended for high school readers. --Holly Koelling

  Kirkus Review

Changing typefaces, canted blocks of text, and occasional pale background collages give this star-crossed romance a hip look, without compromising legibility. After 16 years of studied disinterest in the opposite sex, John falls hard for Marisol, who, in one of life's little ironies, is thoroughly, proudly out of the closet. Having encountered each other through their self-written, confessional ``zines,'' the two find commonality not only in their love of writing, but in their bone-deep distrust of others: hers a result of how her adoptive family has behaved toward her, his the product of shuttling between his self-absorbed father and a mother so traumatized by the divorce that she never hugs or touches him. Meeting only on weekends, John and Marisol develop a clandestine friendship that is tested hard when John reveals his feelings for her (discovering them himself at practically the same time), and she in turn hooks up with a trio of lesbians and takes off for New York City. They do part friends, though, and if Wittlinger (Lombardo's Law, 1993, etc.) makes Marisol a little too sure of herself to be completely believable, her bittersweet portrait of an adolescent writer caught up in a quixotic first love will snare susceptible readers. (Fiction. 13+)
Summary
Since his parents' divorce, John's mother hasn't touched him, her new fiancé wants them to move away, and his father would rather be anywhere than at Friday night dinner with his son. It's no wonder John writes articles like "Interview with the Stepfather" and "Memoirs from Hell." The only release he finds is in homemade zines like the amazing Escape Velocity by Marisol, a self-proclaimed "Puerto Rican Cuban Yankee Lesbian." Haning around the Boston Tower Records for the new issue of Escape Velocity, John meets Marisol and a hard love is born.While at first their friendship is based on zines, dysfuntional families, and dreams of escape, soon both John and Marisol begin to shed their protective shells. Unfortunately, John mistakes this growing intimacy for love, and a disastrous date to his junior prom leaves that friendship in ruins. Desperately hoping to fix things, John convinces Marisol to come with him to a zine conference on Cape Cod. On the sandy beaches by the Bluefish Wharf Inn, John realizes just how hard love can be.With keen insight into teenage life, Ellen Wittlinger delivers a story of adolescence that is fierce and funny -- and ultimately transforming -- even as it explores the pain of growing up.
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