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Hard Love


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About the Author

Ellen Wittlinger is the critically acclaimed author of the teen novels Parrotfish, Blind Faith, Sandpiper, Heart on My Sleeve, Zigzag, and Hard Love (an American Library Association Michael L. Printz Honor Book and a Lambda Literary Award winner), and its sequel Love & Lies: Marisol's Story. She has a bachelor's degree from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, and an MFA from the University of Iowa. A former children's librarian, she lives with her husband in Haydenville, Massachusetts.


Wittlinger's (Lombardo's Law) somewhat overdramatized account of unrequited love explores the complexity of relationships in the 1990s. The story unfolds through the thoughts and writings of John Galardi, a high school student who pens a zine called Bananafish (in homage to J.D. Salinger). John claims he is "immune to emotion," until he meets fellow zine writer Marisol. But Marisol is a lesbian, and she makes it clear from the beginning that her relationship with John can go only so far. John's feelings for Marisol are clouded by his uncertainty about his own sexuality ("I'm not even sure if I'm gay or not," he admits to Marisol) and his anger toward both of his parentsÄhis mother, who has not touched him since her divorce five years ago, and his father, who "always manages to have pressing commitments on weekend nights" when John stays with him. John's simmering passions for Marisol, which come to a full boil at the prom, predictably lead to disaster. This self-consciously up-to-date novel scratches the surface of perhaps too many issues, but John's intelligent, literate yet raw entries betray more to readers than he knows of himself. The awkwardness of awakening sexuality, a growing preoccupation with identity, and crossing the line from friendship to more are all themes here with which teens will readily identify. Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 7 Up-In the first line of this Printz Honor book by Ellen Wittlinger (S&S, 1999), John Galardi, a junior at suburban Darlington High School, tells us that he is "immune to emotion." John spends his weekdays and nights living with his divorced mother, who has literally not touched him in the six years since her divorce from John's sophisticated father, with whom he stays every weekend in Boston. Both parents assume he is getting enough emotional support from the other. John likes to read the zines that he picks up in Boston. He particularly likes Escape Velocity written by Marisol Guzman, a self-proclaimed "Puerto Rican Yankee Cambridge, Massachusetts, rich spoiled lesbian private-school gifted-and-talented writer virgin looking for love." When she mentions that there will be a new issue of her zine at Tower Records the next Saturday, John decides to wait for her to deliver it when he drops off his own zine, "Bananafish." A friendship develops around their writing and loneliness. Marisol believes in always living life to the fullest and never lying, all new concepts for John. As Marisol insists that John harness his inner resources and develop a zest for life, she exposes him to new things art, music, coffee and feelings. He can't keep himself from falling in love with her, a kind of love that she can't return. Humor flows out of John's struggle with complete honesty and his desire to remain cool and detached. Actor Mark Webber's reading (Snow Day, Drive Me Crazy) is absolutely perfect in tone for John's confused, sarcastic coolness. With the slightest inflection of his voice, he aptly portrays all of the characters in the novel. Listeners are intimately drawn into the story by this young, angst-filled voice. There is a bit of strong language, although it is always appropriate to the plot. Young adults will love the wit and poignancy of these two clever teens striving to discover who they are and if they are capable of making emotional connections.-Jo-Ann Carhart, East Islip Public Library, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 8 Up-John, "a witty misanthrope," meets and falls for zine writer Marisol, a "rich spoiled lesbian private-school gifted-and-talented writer virgin looking for love." A bittersweet tale of self-expression and the struggle to achieve self-love. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Publishers Weekly The awkwardness of awakening sexuality, a growing preoccupation with identity, and crossing the line from friendship to more are all themes here with which teens will readily identify.
Booklist Even minor characters on the edges of the story are wonderfully crafted and convincing. Teenagers should be prepared to laugh, wince, rage, weep, and heave at least one deep sigh when they read this meaningful story. Highly recommended for high school readers.
School Library Journal This is a smart addition to YA collections and a good recommendation to readers who may be feeling outside the norm.
Kirkus Reviews (Wittlinger's) bittersweet portrait of an adolescent writer caught up in a quixotic first love will snare susceptible readers.
VOYA Remembering that adolescence is a trying time filled with questions and feelings, Hard Love is an intriguing and absorbing novel.
"Ellen Wittlinger's Hard Love was one of the books that inspired me to write young adult novels."--John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars

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