Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

Amelia has angst. She's 15 and in love with a 21 year old. He's everything she's ever wanted...funny, cute, smart, deep, clever, goes to uni, thinks she's interesting. There's only one problem: he's 21. She knows that it's impossible, that he'll never look at her the way he looks at Kathy, the 22 year-old who attends the same uni as Chris, and is pretty, uninterested, and the subject of an on-again-off-again crush known as "the Kathy virus."

What's the use? So she enjoys the time she has with him. She treasures the moments they get to talk at the registers, rejoices every time he stays after his shift to help her with her homework, or invites her out after work. Amelia pines away for the boy she will never have, falling hard.

Chris has his own issues: he's focusing on Kathy to try and push Michaela out of his head. That entire situation was too messed up to even mention, except when he's too lubricated to use good sense, and his true emotions come out onto the page in waves of bitterness only too easy to relate to, and maybe a little to close to home at times. Amelia figures into his story in flashes, bits and pieces here and there. In his Search for the Perfect Woman, however, she doesn't make the cut. Let's face it, he's desperate, but not that desperate.

As time passes, these two come into closer orbit, sharing stories, and life views. They begin to connect in a way that even he recognizes as meaningful. It doesn't change the circumstances, or the fact that she's a high schooler on her way up. He's about to finish uni and still in some kind of holding pattern, with no real direction for his life. They are in different places, this can't possibly happen.

Then there is that horrible night when she is so drunk, and that other boy from checkout comes on to her. It's just a kiss, what's the big deal. Amelia didn't know Chris could be such a dick! Teasing her mercilessly, calling her out in front of everyone - why does he even care? Does he care? Feelings are so complicated...

The story flips back and forth between diary-style narratives, letting each tell their side. Buzo accurately captures both ages and voices very well. It was a love story, but not the kind you see on TV. It was so authentic. I will look for more by this Aussie author. Her prose is refreshingly real.
"I just got back from a thoroughly enjoyable evening in the company of Amelia, whose cult following is gaining momentum. If I were less of a prick, I might feel a bit guilty about the way I've been torturing her this week. But I think we all learned something. I took her for pizza after work and let her drink Big Girl drinks. I know, I know, but if I don't lead her astray, who will?
Somehow I ended up telling Amelia about Michaela. I really must have forgotten that she is a youngster and should be treated as such. Being the gentleman I am, I walked her home. When we got to her house, she peeked through the front curtains before letting herself in. That's what reminded me of Sophie from The BFG.
I really like talking to her. I like how she turns everything over and over in her mind, and that she doesn't censor herself. Being with her is easy. I seem to laugh....
1 a.m.
If she were even just two years older, she'd be leading the Field," (Buzo pg. 116, 2010).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo (currently only available in Australia)
Not Exactly a Love Story by Audrey Couloumbis
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman
How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

Buzo, Laura. (2012). Love and Other Perishable Items. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

We Were Here by Matt de la Peña

Miguel arrives at the group home after spending time in juvy with no expectations. The first thing he does is get in a fight with one of the other boys living there. That night he wakes up with that crazy Chinese kid Mong watching him sleep. The next few weeks he steers clear of everyone else, and sticks to himself. There isn't any point, right? He's alone wherever he goes. After what happened, there's no hope for him. He'll just serve his time, write in this stupid journal the judge ordered him to keep, read any book he can get his hands on, and hopefully this year will be over soon.

When they want him to call his moms, he makes a pact. Miguel knows she doesn't want to talk to him, so he's going to call some other number and pretend to talk to her. The look in her eye when they came to take him to juvy was almost like relief.

When his bunkmate from juvy shows up at the Lighthouse, he can't believe his rotten luck. Rondell gets put in his room again. The guy is huge, like you can't even believe. If Miguel was scared of anything anymore, he might even be scared of him... Jaden, their group supervisor, plays all like he's everybody's friend. Pretty funny coming from one of the only white boys in the place.

When Mong comes to him and tells him about his plan to break out, Rondell overhears. Without really even thinking it through, the three of them are on the road to Mexico. Mong's got a plan all in place. Miguel swipes almost $800 from the Lighthouse to get them some money to survive on. He feels mad guilty about that, but it is what it is. The plan is to get to Mexico and become fisherman. Miguel can get behind that, his family is from Mexico. Hell, his gramps snuck across the border.

On their way down the coast, the boys build a tentative friendship as they sleep out on beaches and snarf tacos. One night, Mong takes them to his childhood summer home, where his dad would bring him as a kid. Miguel swiped more than just money from the Lighthouse, and he knows what happened to Mong's family. He knows how Rondell ended up where he is too. It makes what comes next both easier and harder to accept.

What do a grip of teenage group home kids, on the run with no place to go, have going for them? Maybe each other. Maybe a whole lot more. It's a touching story of hard knocks, real life, and second chances. Well written, de la Peña captures the voice of a tough teen of the streets in a heart-felt way. Highly recommended, especially for high school boys.
"I read the first twenty-something pages, and right off I knew why it was so popular. It was the way the kid, Holden, talked about stuff. And how he seemed so honest about everything that was going through his head. The only thing I wonder about sometimes, though is why some rich kids like him complain about their lives so much. I know everybody's situation is hard in its own way, but when you look at a kid like Mong or Rondell, when you read their files and think about how they never even say a word about it, they just deal, and then you start reading about some prep school kid like Holden, and how the whole time he keeps complaining and complaining...I don't know, I just think about that sometimes," (de la Peña pg. 143, 2009).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Pena
Tyrell by Coe Booth
Muchacho by Louanne Johnson

de la Peña, Matt. (2009). We were here. New York: Delacorte Press.