Review: Love and Other Perishable Items by Lauren Buzo

Love and Other Perishable Items Book Cover Love and Other Perishable Items
Lauren Buzo

Love is: heart-wrenching, tongue-tying, butterfly-inducing. But most of all, love is awkward.

Amelia should know. From the moment she 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 isn’t stupid. She knows it’s not gonna happen. So she plays it cool around Chris – at least, as cool as she can. Working checkout together at the local supermarket, they strike up a friendship: swapping life stories; bantering about everything from classic books to B movies; and cataloging the many injustices of growing up. Their conversations crackle with wit and repressed longing, and as time goes on, Amelia’s crush doesn’t seem to be so one-sided anymore. But if Chris likes her back, what then? Can two people in such different places in life really be together?

Through a year of befuddling firsts – first love, first job, first party, and first hangover – debut author Laura Buzo shows how the things that break your heart can still crack you up.

Review:

I am in love with this book.

Love and Other Perishable Items has everything I look for in a novel – unforgettable characters, distinctive voice, and the ability to make me laugh and cry in turns. It’s an amazingly intelligent, delightful, funny-yet-deep story, and I can’t recommend it enough.

I started this book assuming that it would be a light-hearted, humorous tale of unrequited love in which the girl moons over a clueless, unattainable, godlike guy. While it definitely qualifies as humorous, and at times it’s light-hearted, Love and Other Perishable Items is so much more than the story of a silly schoolgirl crush. Buzo’s debut is about the desire for a connection, the complications of love, and how finding the right person isn’t as important as finding them at the right time.

Amelia and Chris, who tell the story in alternating points of view, are at very different places in their lives. Amelia, at the age of 15, is young and inexperienced. She’s still in high school, just got her braces off, and is struggling to figure out who she is and what she believes in. Chris, on the other hand, is in his final year of college and has no shortage of experience. Both characters are tremendously likable, and they’re so real and genuine that I’m certain no reader will be able to help making a connection with them.

Amelia is a tad naïve, but this doesn’t mean she’s stupid, nor is she boring. She’s quite passionate about what she believes in and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself or speak her mind, even to Chris. She may not be the coolest person in the world, but she doesn’t come across as a nerd – she’s just responsible and knows what her priorities are, which is a nice change from the easily-swayed girls in many YA books. Best of all, she is witty, sarcastic, and very self-aware, especially in regard to her feelings about Chris. She knows she’s obsessed and doesn’t try to deny it, instead writing about her crazy crush in a wry, self-deprecating, humorous tone. Her acceptance of the fact that chances of having a relationship with Chris are slim keeps her from coming across as the typical silly, delusional teenage girl and really endears her to the reader.

Amelia is such a relatable and enjoyable character that I would have been content reading the story from her point of view alone, but I was pleasantly surprised when I came across the first section of the book written from Chris’ point of view. By showing the reader Chris’ journal entries, Buzo makes him into a dynamic character with great potential for growth, rather than simply keeping him as a one-dimensional love interest. It is no longer just Amelia’s story but Chris’ as well.

Chris is one of the most memorable, charismatic male leads I’ve seen in a long time. He isn’t out-of-this-world-gorgeous, but his magnetic personality and ironic wit make him incredibly appealing. It’s no wonder that Amelia’s is drawn to him; I found myself becoming a bit infatuated myself. His journal entries are even smarter and funnier than the sections written from Amelia’s point of view, filled with snappy one-liners and side-splitting observations about himself and everyone around him.

There’s more to Chris than just charm and a sense of humor, though. His journal entries are unabashedly honest and at times a bit unflattering, revealing an overtly sexual, foul-mouthed, self-deprecating-verging-on-self-pitying side to his character. Chris is definitely flawed, and at times his actions are disappointing, but this makes him much more interesting, and the story is richer as a result.

Another great part of Love and Other Perishable Items is the atmosphere of the grocery store where Chris and Amelia work. There’s a whole cast of fascinating characters there for Chris and Amelia to interact with, from Street Cred Donna to She’s-big-she’s-blond-she-works-in-the-deli Georgia. The group dynamics are fun to watch, and I found myself half wishing I could work there myself.

All in all, Love and Other Perishable Items is a fantastic story. I would definitely recommend this book, and I already can’t wait to read it again.

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