Book: Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger Genre: Young Adult fiction Audience: 12 and up Read-Aloud: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biJuU1nav3o
Summary: It’s a coming of age story about this high school boy named John who grows up with an absent father and a mother who shows no affection for her son since he was 16. He starts to write this zine an online blog called Bannanafish. He soon meets this girl named Marisol a high school girl as well who is an out lesbian and very self assured. Marisol has her own zine as well and they become friends first just chatting over each others zines but soon start getting together on these little coffee dates, even though John knows Marisol is gay he still falls for her and asks her to his junior prom. Soon his feelings become too much for Marisol and their friendship ends and Marisol ends up leaving for New York. John is left to grow up and discover the hardships of love.
Themes: Love and coming of age are the two main themes of this story. John is trying to find himself he has no role model to look up to. His mother is constantly going out on dates and is never around and can barely show any emotion towards him and his father is out off the picture. He falls for Marisol, an author of her own zine and he has to deal with her being a lesbian and yet him having feelings for her. He finds out what exactly it means to be in love and how sometimes it can be complicated and how sometimes no matter how much you love someone you have to let them go. This theme of love relates to coming of age and growing up and trying to tackle the hardships of life.
Connections: This book reminded me a lot of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. It has the friendship from two different individuals one gay one straight and one who has his life figured out and is comfortable trying to help the other into their own skin. The fact that they are both from two different places coming together and starting a friendship is also similar.
Reactions: I loved this story I thought it would be amazing to teach in a class. It has the coming of age story which I think is really important and it ties it into a love and knowing what love is which is something a lot of teenagers start to figure out in high school and that makes it easy to relate to and learn from. I love the fact that it’s different and doesn’t have the stereotypical ending where the guy gets the girl and it has some twists and is not that predictable.
Reception: “The awkwardness of awakening sexuality, a growing preoccupation with identity and crossing the line from friendship to more are themes here with which teens will readily identify.” –Publisher’s Weekly “Hard Love is a touching and real story of a group of outsiders trying to make the human connections they need to survive and thrive. It is a novel of discovery, and one of those discoveries is that love is unavoidable, even when you love the wrong person. And even when you love the wrong person, the knowledge that you can love anyone at all still makes you feel very much alive.” –Author Nancy Matson