Love and other perishable items by Laura Buzo

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Allen & Unwin. 2015. ISBN 9781760112424
(Age: 14-18) Highly recommended. Young adult fiction. Originally this debut novel from Laura Buzo was published as Good oil and commended in the CBC Older Readers offerings of 2011. It was further shortlisted in the 2011 Prime Minister's Literary Awards. Now re-issued with a new title, this is a wonderfully funny, tender and compellingly engaging read. Buzo has a marvellous knack of writing real life with a completely authentic and convincing voice which resonates strongly throughout her novels.
When 16 year old Amelia lands herself her first job - part-time at her local Woolies - as so many young people do, she meets 21 year old Chris, final year uni student. Outwardly a gauche awkward teen and an extroverted 'class clown' with a six-year age gap that seems an insurmountable chasm, these two 'click' with immediacy as they discuss every conceivable topic from quality literature to feminism to pulp movies with gusto and passion. And of course, fall in love - though not without obstacles. Amelia is smitten from the start but despairs of Chris ever regarding her as more than the quirky 'young 'un', while Chris stumbles from fantasy perfect woman to unsuccessful pursuit, all the while falling more and more convincingly for Amelia.
Not only the main characters but those secondary and even on the periphery of this story are drawn so utterly real and the plot unravels with warmth and wit, absorbing the reader who is drawn into this melee of personalities with ease.
There is an intriguing and subtle comparison of the two personalities revealed through their alternate narrations. Apparently 'uncool' Amelia has in fact developed far more sophisticated coping mechanisms to deal with her stresses with family life and school than the generally perceived 'cool' Chris, who resorts to over-indulgence in alcohol and recreational drugs to escape from his own troubles.
The parallels which can be drawn between Amelia's English reading list (and frustrations with the curriculum and her teacher) and the gradually evolving relationship between herself and Chris are also delightful, as the reader is invited to predict the eventual outcome between these two distinctly likeable characters.
Highly recommended for mature readers of around 15 and up, you won't go wrong with this one.
Sue Warren