From the moment Amelia sets eyes on Chris, she is a goner. Lost. Sunk. Head-over-heels infatuated with him. It’s problematic, since Chris, 21, is a sophisticated university student, while Amelia, 15, is… 15.
Amelia knows it’s not going to happen. So she plays it cool around Chris – at least, as cool as she can. Working together at the local supermarket, they strike up a friendship: swapping life stories, bantering about everything from classic books to B movies, and cataloguing the many injustices of growing up. Their conversations crackle with wit, and, as time goes on, Amelia’s crush doesn’t seem so one-sided anymore. But can two people in such different places in life really be together?
Award-winning author Laura Buzo shows how the things that break your heart can still crack you up.
Love and Other Perishable Items is an Australia YA novel set in Sydney. Despite it’s cute cover and summary, this is not a fluffy contemporary romance novel, which was honestly what I was expecting when I picked it off the shelf at my bookstore. What I got, instead, was a deep and moving story about first love, friendship and growing up.
I don’t think I’ve ever related to a story and its characters more than I did when reading this novel. It’s a story about transitions, and having been a 21 year old university student not too long ago, and a 15 year old high schooler a little further back, I could relate to both Chris and Amelia. I’ve been through the uncertainties that come with graduating from university. Do I move out of my parents’ house? Do I get a full-time job or pursue further studies? Chris was going through the same crisis in this book, and I felt like we understood each other. At the same time, I could see my 15 year old self in Amelia – the slightly awkward and quiet girl who feels out of place among her older coworkers and her school friends who have just discovered the boys from the school next door.
I absolutely loved the characters. They’re real and full of flaws. The relatability and realism of it was really refreshing. I appreciated that even though the characters were having a rough time figuring out where they fit in the world, they didn’t try to change themselves for anybody. It would have been so easy for Amelia to be sucked into the glamour of being friends with an older guy who parties and drinks excessively. But she stands her own ground and, while she does give in sometimes, she acts with a maturity that I wouldn’t have expected from my 15 year old self if I had been in her position. She’s honest and likeable, and you can’t help but be sucked into her world. I really loved Amelia and I felt like I went through all of her experiences with her. My heart melted and broke right along with hers, and I couldn’t help but have a little cry at times too.
The romance for me was completely realistic too. It was heartwarming and heartwrenching, and completely relatable to anybody who’s ever suffered through unrequited love. I enjoyed how the story played out for them and thought it ended in the best way possible. Both characters made small mistakes but they also made very mature decisions that we honestly don’t always see in the young adult genre.
The familiarity of the setting was also something that I thoroughly enjoyed. My university is mentioned in the book and it was amazing being able to read about places that I had been to or still walk past every day. Because everything felt so familiar, I almost felt like I was reading about my past self. I definitely need to read more books set in Sydney because the level of excitement I felt was unreal!
I also really enjoyed the format of the book. It had an interesting format where we get to see little snippets of their lives. There are no chapters in this novel but the book is split into 4 sections, with a couple of epilogue-like pages at the end. Two of the sections are written from Amelia’s perspective and the other two from Chris’s point of view, and they alternate throughout the book. From Amelia’s perspective, we get to see significant moments in her life, written in a traditional prose format. Chris’s sections are written as diary entries, documenting not only significant events that have taken place in his life, but also his innermost thoughts and feelings. These book doesn’t follow a linear timeline, though the events in each section are mostly chronological. While it was a little bit disconcerting that each section didn’t pick up where the previous had left off, I liked being able to see how separate Chris and Amelia’s lives were and how they intertwined too. The writing in this book was beautiful and a pleasure to read!
“There’s no sense in hanging around people who make you unhappy again and again.”
There were many great life messages in this book and it was incredibly insightful. Laura Buzo touches on things like feminism and less-than-perfect families. There are also lots of references to classic literature like Virginia Woolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Dickens. Though I should warn you that there are major spoilers for The Great Gatsby and Great Expectations, so if you don’t want to know the endings, I suggest you read them ASAP!
For anybody who’s looking for a book about real people and real events without over-dramatisation, I highly recommend this one (and it’s also available in the States!).