Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
Publication Date: December 11, 2012
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: first love, first jobs, feminism
Format read: ARC from NetGalley.
Summary: Amelia, 15, takes a job at her local supermarket to earn extra money where she meets Chris, 21, and subsequently develops more-than-friends feelings for him. To pass the time at the grocery store, they discuss books, life, and the inequalities of women.
Have you ever read a book where you thought maybe the book was so good you couldn’t do it justice when you wrote your review? I immediately texted Estelle when I finished Love and Other Perishable Items because I didn’t know how to put my thoughts and feelings into words. Could I possibly convince you that this book is amazing? Buzo’s writing is so incredibly thorough – I’m not sure my review even begins to do it justice. More mature audiences would enjoy this book, somewhat because of content – drinking, sex, drugs, but mostly because it led me to do a considerable amount of contemplating. I recommend this for anyone who enjoys thinking beyond what’s written on the page.
Growing up, I remember being attracted to the older guys — they were wiser, more mature, and could hold a conversation with me that lasted longer than a few minutes. They captivated me and more often than not, my parents didn’t allow me to pursue relationships with said guys because they were “too mature” for me. Womp womp womp.
In Love and Other Perishable Items, Amelia takes a job at a local grocery store. During her training, she’s assigned to a store veteran, Chris, who is to show her the ropes and explain the job to her. A friendship is sparked from the very beginning – despite the fact that Amelia is 15 and Chris is 21. Amelia is a very mature teenager and her feelings quickly develop into lustful ones. Chris admires how Amelia over-analyzes everything – he’s amused and entertained by her. He provides a listening ear for all the things that absorb Amelia’s mind.
Amelia tells the overarching storyline in a mostly chronological sequence of events. Her story is written in first person and composes most of the story, but the interesting addition is how Chris is incorporated. He and Amelia bond over literature and the books she’s given as required reading at school; he is an English major in college. Because he’s a writer, his story is written as a series of journal entries. They are piecer and often fill in the gaps for Amelia’s narration. The combination of getting the larger picture and seeing sub-stories and another character’s perspective provided a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of Chris and Amelia’s relationship.
Chris and Amelia are two observant, albeit sometimes cynical, characters who love dissecting the world and books. Feminism plays a tremendous role in Love and Other Perishable Items. Amelia struggles with her family dynamics – a mother who is constantly worn down and left with little time for herself while her father often seems distant and very self-involved, never lending a helping hand at home. She views their relationship as unfair and struggles to understand the prejudices and responsibilities placed on women. She fights to understand how women have worked so hard to gain independence and equality and yet, we seem more overworked than ever. I, personally, really enjoyed these discussions between Amelia and Chris — it evoked contemplation and reflection upon my own marriage. Did I agree with Amelia and were those things she disliked so much happening in my very own home? (I have to say I’m a lucky gal with a husband who kindly does his fair share of work around the house.)
Chris and Amelia’s relationship is a very complex one. Chris has hesitations because of Amelia’s age and she has hope that he can see beyond the number. Buzo beautifully explores what it’s like to feel like you’ve met your soul mate, but for things to realistically be complicated and impossible. How it feels to fall in love for the very first time with someone who seems so out of reach. I met my husband when I was 16 years old and he was 20. While there were certainly hesitations on my parents behalf, here we are nearly 11 years later (happily married for 8). My personal story gave me hope for Amelia and Chris.
Love and Other Perishable Items is unlike any other young adult book I’ve read this year. In the time since I read this book, the story has marinated and become that much more rich and flavorful. It’s engaging and refreshing, explorative and thought-provoking. As soon as I turned the final page, I wanted to flip to the beginning for a re-read because I wanted to adequately appreciate all the intricacies of Buzo’s incredible writing.