I’ve really been on quite a bender of Aussie YA books, given that I have so recently read a few. Add Love And Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo to the list of books to turn to for a solid, legit read. Buzo’s contemporary book is a quiet read of the desperation of unrequited love. I know that sounded totally dorky, but really, that’s what this book is about and while reading it, I could not help but contemplate how different fictional Aussie teens seem from fictional American teens. Love And Other Perishable Items or Good Oil is an excellent read that makes me hope Buzo’s Holier Than Thou will someday be published in the US.
Amelia is 15 years old and about to start her first job as a checkout girl at Coles Supermarket. She meets the most perfect guy ever, or so she thinks — her trainer, Chris. He’s charming, charismatic, smart and not too bad to look at. He’s also 21. So, Amelia spends her time pining over Chris and hoping that he will realize just how great she is. You see, Amelia is quite naive when it comes to guys, she’s never even dated a guy and it seems Chris is her first crush. Yet, the story isn’t solidly focused on Amelia. Love And Other Perishable Items alternates between Amelia’s first person point of view and Chris’s journal entries. This is the ultimate will-they won’t-they forbidden love sort of story and I just ate it up my friends. Really, this is a very ordinary sort of book in that it really does manage to capture feelings we’ve all had — crushes that seem like they are going nowhere. There’s not a lot of dramatics within Buzo’s plot and I am perfectly okay with that.
When I think about YA female main characters, I like them well enough. I even try to relate to them. As a character, Amelia is awesome. She’s a real thinker. She ponders things and realizes just how bullshit the ending of Great Expectations is. Amelia is also learning about feminism and her eyes are beginning to open to things like sexism in advertising and how the domestic division of labor is unfair. It’s awesome. She’s not completely 100% dead on correct about everything, but she is learning and is precocious and I just loved her. I also loved her earnestness and her seriousness. For a 15 year old, she did not annoy the heck out of me. Yet, she still comes across as girlish and not at all like an adult. I just thought that although Amelia is brilliant, she also seemed developmentally appropriate in the way that Buzo wrote her.
I thought that Chris was drawn fairly true to life as someone who is a bit unmotivated. He studies sociology at university and works a lot of hours at Coles. He still lives at home with his parents and drinks away his paycheck. He keeps getting hung up on old flames and the wrong women in his search for The Perfect Woman. He calls Amelia by the affectionate nickname Youngster and kind of does not see her as more than a friend. There are moments where it seems like he comes across as a dick, but for me, I thought that he was doing the right thing, given the situation. I mean, 15 and 21 is not okay and you can disagree with me all you want, but my mind won’t ever be changed. Either way, I really liked the complexity with which Buzo drew Chris.
I was saying above how this story made me feel that there’s a difference between Australian teenagers and American teenagers, at least fictional ones. I thought Amelia came across as much more deep and concerned about things than most teenagers I read about. I don’t know, she just seems pretty mature and not all caught up in petty things. She’s very, hmmm, introspective. I don’t really get that sense with a lot of the American teens that I read about and from when I was a teenager. I don’t know. I can’t describe it.
All that being said, I really enjoyed Love And Other Perishable Items and am not quite able to put my finger on why. Maybe it’s the writing style. Maybe it’s the portrayal of the characters. Maybe it’s the longing. I don’t know, this is just a superb read.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher