Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger

hardloveHard Love by Ellen Wittlinger 2001 224 Pages 5/5 I've come to the conclusion that the Printz award is just the absolute best literary award out there. I've yet to be disappointed by a book that was recognized as either the winner or a finalist. Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger adds to the list of fantastic books that has been a Printz Finalist. This one in 2001. As with most Printz stories, this is a deeply moving novel that tackles rough issues well and deals with young adults. The young adult in this case is John. John feels as though his life is a mess. His best friend is discovering girls while he doesn't know yet if he even likes girls. His parents are divorced and his mother, who hasn't touched him in years, is engaged to a new man while his father would seemingly rather have nothing to do with him. John does find an escape though, and it's in creating his own zine called Bananafish. For those who don't know, a "zine" is basically a self published magazine usually on 8 1/2 inch paper folded in half and stapled and tends to be very indy-like. I personally remember the days of zines fondly. I met a girl when I was in high school that published her own zine and sold copies for a dollar and I fell in love with this girl. I thought she was the coolest thing since sliced bread. I ended up making my own zine with a friend of mine and it was cheesy as hell, but it was fun. My own story echoes John's almost exactly. He finds a zine that's published by a girl named Marisol and it is his mission to meet her. He does meet her one day at Tower Records while she's dropping off new issues and they end up going out for coffee. Marisol likes John, but not in the way that he likes her...she's a lesbian. But that doesn't stop John from falling for her madly despite the fact that he knows that he won't ever be with her in the way he wants to. There were little things about John and Marisol that I just loved! Their quirky attitudes, their uniqueness, the passion and grief that they shared with each other, the fact that John swears an oath on a copy of J.D. Sallinger's Nine Stories. They're just an amazing couple of characters. The book itself is wonderfully written and is actually designed like a zine in a way switching formats occasionally. Wittlinger did an amazing job creating likeable characters. And she did an even better job at setting up what proved to be a heartbreaking, yet very, very real situation. The ending is not happy, but it's as happy as it can be. And I think it's just perfect when books are realistic and end in that way. I could really talk about this book forever, but I'll shut up now. It's one of those books that you'd love to just talk about over coffee with a good friend. This book is highly deserving of being a 2001 Printz finalist as well as deserving the LAMBDA award that it was given. Can't wait to read more by Wittlinger!

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