Emily's Book Review: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
Can a fifteen year old girl and a twenty-one year old boy ever find the equal ground necessary to form a real relationship? Is such a relationship inherently creepy or can it make sense, given certain circumstances? These are the questions Love and Other Perishable Items examines in a smart, engaging story that combines all the things I love in a book. This book is a realistic love story that goes beyond the touchy-feely and gets into the meat of characters’ lives and hearts and what draws them together. It’s funny, it’s well written, and it draws a clear and detailed backdrop for the characters’ romance to play out. I read a review of this book several weeks ago and mostly forgot about it, so I’m glad I didn’t miss it when it appeared on our shelves.
Amelia is a barely fifteen-year old Australian girl who begins working at Coles Supermarket for extra spending money, and Chris is the poor but charismatic college student she quickly falls for there. He charms all his female co-workers at Coles, but readers get a hint that he may have more than friendly feelings for Amelia when he abruptly buys her a bouquet of marked-down flowers at close on Christmas Eve. When the book transitions into Chris’s own journal, we find that he doesn’t understand why he did this any more than Amelia does, but his thoughts about her seem to grow by the page as she appears more and more in his writing. He is amused by her angry diatribes about everything from her parents’ smoking habit to Great Expectations, and he is impressed by the way she has the motives of everyone else who works at the supermarket figured out perfectly. Yet, when he lists “The Field” in his quest for a perfect woman, he never includes Amelia because of her young age.
A lot of things about this book appealed to me. First of all, I loved that it is set in Australia. Realistic fiction set in another country is always an interesting change, even if I did get a little confused at first with Christmas taking place in the summer. As always, I loved the international slang. I also thought it was genius that Buzo decided to make a supermarket the main setting of this novel. A part-time retail job is one of the few places where Amelia and Chris can be equals. It doesn’t matter so much that he is in college and she is in high school when they have the same position at Coles, and it is one of the few places where a high school student and a college student could have become friends in the first place. I couldn’t decide at first if I liked the inclusion of Chris’s journals in the book—mostly because they turn him from a twenty-one year old dreamboy into a mildly alcoholic slob—but ultimately, the story wouldn’t have been the same without them. In them, we see Amelia turn Chris into a better man, and it’s especially cool when their conversations about family life, feminism, and the books Amelia reads at school are all woven together in letters they write to one another.
I would recommend this book to fans of realistic fiction and those who like romance that goes beyond the surface level. Fans of Megan McCafferty and Sarah Dessen should be intrigued and will hope that Buzo continues to publish books in the same vein as this one.