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, 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. As time goes on, Amelia’s crush doesn’t seem so one-sided anymore. But if Chris likes her back, what then? Can two people in such different places in life really be together?
Cover Gushing Worthiness:
The cover for Love and Other Perishable Items is probably one of my favourite covers of the year. It’s quite adorable and the cover makes sense as you read the book. I do think the Australian Cover is also a good one. Sure it is a bit corny, but it’s not corny to the point where I wouldn’t pick it up.
Review: I first heard about LaOPI from my friend Keertana over at Ivy Book Bindings who read the Australian version which is titled Good Oil. According to Koalanet.com Good Oil is Australian slang for: useful information, a good idea and the truth. I’m still trying to wrap my head around all those definitions for Good Oil and how it relates to the book, but I do admit that I may not have bought the book under the Australian title, simply because I would have no idea about its meaning. That being said I really do like the North American title. There’s something refreshing and original about it, especially being a YA book. I feel like the title is one that would be used for an adult fiction book, but it works well for this story. Before you make any judgments about the cover or the title of the book, I really ask you to take a moment and read the book before you form your opinions.
After I finished reading Lover and Other Perishable Items I was left speechless. I even told Keertana that I was trying to form coherent thoughts about my opinion of the book. In the end I did realize that the reason I couldn’t gather my thoughts was because I didn’t have any book to compare LaOPI to. Not that the plot is original, rather it is because the execution of the story is so well done in how it addresses the realities of life. I think at some point in our lives we’re all familiar with the feelings one experiences with the dreaded unrequited love. The portrayal of such a situation in a remarkably realistic way is what has garnered so much praise for this book.
Set in Sydney Australia, Love and Other Perishable Items follows the story of fifteen year-old Amelia, a girl who has recently gotten a job at Coles- a large chain Grocery store. At the store Amelia meets and befriends Chris Harvey, a twenty-one (soon to be twenty-two) University student and that’s how the story begins to unfold.
Before throwing your hands up in exasperation about the plot and screaming out “Corny!”I can honestly say the story is told realistically. There aren’t a lot of stereotypes in this book. Amelia’s narration captures the feelings of frustration, anxiety,fear, self-consciousness all at once. Her descriptions of the stagnation that can occupy everyday life is another quality that makes this book so wonderful.While Amelia is the main narrator of the story, we also get to hear Chris’ voice via his diary entries. I have to say that I preferred Chris’ voice a tad bit more than Amelia’s simply because he’s closer to my age and I found that I could relate to him much more than I could to Amelia. The novel moves at a slow and steady pace allowing character development for both Amelia and Chris. I liked the fact that the ending was not your typical YA cliché ending, instead it was an honest look at how people are so different from when they were 15 and when they are 22.
Amelia was an easily likable character for me. She wasn’t necessarily your typical teenage girl. She was incredibly passionate in her opinions of Great Expectations and Feminism. A part of me felt like she had almost shouldered the burden of her mother’s seeming unhappiness. She somewhat did remind me of my younger self when I was her age, but what made her so great was she understood reality. Yes she wished that there was an alternate reality where she could have a chance with Chris, but she accepted things the way they are. Once in a while it’s nice to see a teenager character who isn’t in over her head. You might argue that she actually is because she likes a 21 year-old. Well we’ve all been there, but it’s not as if we’ve dropped everything for that crush now have we? Amelia’s growth as a character is one of the great things about this book. She grows into her own by the end and it was great to see her understand the world a bit better. It wasn’t that she had an epiphany about life, but the experiences she grows through mould her understanding and she starts to appreciate the things she has in her life, instead of constantly pining over what she doesn’t have/cannot have.
Chris Harvey has gone to be one of my favourite male YA characters. I loved his voice. I loved the fact that he was a Liberal Arts Major like myself. I think I liked Chris so much because he goes through the exact same thing I am. He has t he same questions as I do “what am I going to do in life with my degree?” “How am I going to pay off student debt?” or “Am I going to make a difference in life?” These are also scary questions once you graduate university. Chris was so real in my opinion. He could have been any university student because we all struggle with life questions by the time senior year rolls around. Another thing that made him real was his pining over Michaela-his ex girlfriend. It was as if he just couldn’t/didn’t know how to let go. I believed his struggle to find the “perfect woman” as well as trying to figure out life as best as he can. He was a character with a lot of charisma and personality. Chris’ humour too was something that I appreciated. It was sarcastic and witty all at the same time.
Of course the main element in this book is Amelia’s and Chris’ relationship. The realism of their relationship is something that stands out in comparison to other YA books. Their exchanges were thought-provoking, funny, interesting and most of all believable. They made each other see the world in a different way. A way that they may never have thought about before. I don’t think I can talk about it more without giving too much away. So do read the book!
As far as secondary characters go, there isn’t a lot of development, but they all play an important part. I have to put my hands up say that I disliked Chris’ ex-girlfriend Michaela immensely. She was such a mean person and I was wondering if Chris lost his head somewhere because I could not understand what he saw in her and how she could treat him the way he did. He is better off without her in my opinion. However there is a lot of learning occurring in this book thanks to the secondary characters. I really liked Amelia’s little sister Jess. She was such a cute kid. The relationship between Amelia and her best friend Penny was another highlight for me in the book. It was a good portrayal of how dynamics can change when the opposite sex becomes an issue.
My one pet peeve in the book is that it did play on the stereotype of South Asian people always going into the science fields and that irked me a bit. I’m of a South Asian background and a Liberal Arts Major. Sciences and Math are not my strong suit. It bothered me that Chris’ friend Rohan was portrayed as a stereotypical smart kid with rich parents who took care of everything for him. Maybe there are parents like that and there are smart South Asian Engineers, but just for the record, not all of us go into sciences or Law. We do go into other fields of study besides those.
Overall Love and Other Perishable Items was a great read for me. It’s unlike any other contemporary YA book I’ve read so far and I’m glad that I gave it a shot. More than the plot, it’s the characters that make this story believable and relatable. It won’t be everyone’s favourite YA book, but I’d encourage people to give it a chance.
My Rating: 4.5./5
Would I recommend it? Yes