Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: Love and Other Perishable Items

    Review: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buza

    Published by: Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books. Originally published in Australia by Allen and Unwin, Sydney (2010). American Publication 2012

    ISBN: 978-0-373-87000-2

    Reading Level: Grade 9+

Love, when you're a teenager, is almost always complicated. Love, when you're 15 and the person you're in love with is 21 is a little more problematic. 'Love and Other Perishable Items' addresses the question - what do when your first love is someone you shouldn't love?
Amelia and Chris both work in their local supermarket. Chris is a university student who is finding the motivation to finish his last year difficult to find. Amelia is finding high school to be not quite what she wants. Amelia, at first sight, fell head over heels with the sophicated Chris, but knows enough to not act on it. Instead she plays it cool and strikes up a friendship where they compare the injustices of growing up as well as bantering about books and b movies. On the surface they're perfect for each other - witty, funny and with similar interests. As time progresses, Amelia does not seem like the only person who longs for a romantic relationship. Yet those six years stand between them - inconsequential when they're in their sixties, miles apart when they're spanning their teens and twenties. Told in alternating sections of Amelia and Chris, the reader wonders if these two can find love - or is their relationship about to meet it's best before date?
This book details the firsts that Amelia is experiencing - her first love, her first real party, her first job, her first hangover. She's a very observant and mature fifteen, forming opinions on literature and feminism and practicing the ability to spout these opinions when she can. At the supermarket, she is not one of the girls who's 15-going-on-35 in terms of social maturity and sexuality. It is her opinions, not her actions, which makes her stand out to Chris. Chris is in search of something - badly burned by Michaela and finding solace at the Uni bar and in his crush on his coworker Kathy he goes from day to day unsure of where his life is leading. He is intrigued by Amelia and her mix of maturity and innocence and enjoys discussions with her, especially those where he can mentor her on books and popular culture. They are well suited and their friendship is one that develops organically, romantic feelings aside. The conclusion of their story is one which does not demean either character and which allows for the idea that the future is always wide open.

I found this book to be nicely written. It captured the angst of unrequited and inappropriate love without making it seem taudry and unrealistic. The issues presented are ones that the characters are quite aware of and it never becomes a 'he and I against the world' kind of Romeo and Juliet tale. Both Amelia and Chris grow and develop as characters, finding their places with each other but also in their own worlds. The alternating of voices, especially since they tell of the same times and events when appropriate, is done quite well, as is the conclusion where these voices are shared. At times, Amelia seems a little too perfect for Chris, Chris seems a little too aimless and the secondary characters seem a little too much like caricatures, however, overall they exist together in the world they inhabit, helping each other find what they want and begin to figure out how to get it.

I give this book a 4/5. Nicely written, draws on the simplistic at times, well concluded.

Goodreads page.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Review: After the Snow

    Review: 'After the Snow by S. D. Crockett

Published by: Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-312-64169-6
Reading Levels: Grade 8+

When I give book talks to students, I don't only discuss books that I enjoyed. I bring out books that I didn't like as well, letting them know they weren't to my taste and why, including a plot review. One book like that is 'Blood Red Road' - I disliked the bleak dystopia and the plot that kept going and going and going. Unfortunately, while reading 'After the Snow' I was constantly reminded of 'Blood Red Road'. The bleakness, the journey, the family revelations, the violence and the times of inaction. It was 'Blood Red Road' all over again and I had to push to finish it.
'After the Snow' tells of a world that has suffered a brand new ice age. The oceans have stopped, America has become inconsequential and survival is of the utmost importance. Willo has only known the world in this state - ice and snow is his normal. He learns from the animals and spends time trapping them for food and for their fur, imitating them whenever he can and recognizing their power and their beauty. One day his family is taken away while Willo is out trapping. Unused to being the pack leader, Willo does what he can to survive, bringing as many supplies as he can to the top of the mountain so he can build a shelter and try to figure out how to find his family. On his way, he discovers a young girl and her brother who are starving and alone. Choices he makes from that point on will jeopardize his chances of survival and alter his destiny forever.
For me, when I read, I need to care about the characters. They could be doing something I've never done (to this point), such as fight cancer, participate in a battle to the death again other people their age, come to terms with the fact their father is a prolific serial killer, or go on a quest to kill the dark lord who-shall-not-be-named. The character of Willo was as bleak as the landscape and even his revelations about his family could not endear him to me. This character, when combined with the abysmal setting of snow and ice, could not make me care about him or his journey. Having not met his family, I had no connection of hope to his finding them, other than not wanting a young boy to be alone. I couldn't connect with the main character, thus, my connection to the book was one of suffering as I pushed to finish it.
I give this book a 2/5. It has merits, it's just not for me and I would not reread it.
Goodreads page.