Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger

hardloveHard Love by Ellen Wittlinger
224 Pages

I’ve come to the conclusion that the Printz award is just the absolute best literary award out there. I’ve yet to be disappointed by a book that was recognized as either the winner or a finalist. Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger adds to the list of fantastic books that has been a Printz Finalist. This one in 2001.

As with most Printz stories, this is a deeply moving novel that tackles rough issues well and deals with young adults. The young adult in this case is John. John feels as though his life is a mess. His best friend is discovering girls while he doesn’t know yet if he even likes girls. His parents are divorced and his mother, who hasn’t touched him in years, is engaged to a new man while his father would seemingly rather have nothing to do with him. John does find an escape though, and it’s in creating his own zine called Bananafish.

For those who don’t know, a “zine” is basically a self published magazine usually on 8 1/2 inch paper folded in half and stapled and tends to be very indy-like. I personally remember the days of zines fondly. I met a girl when I was in high school that published her own zine and sold copies for a dollar and I fell in love with this girl. I thought she was the coolest thing since sliced bread. I ended up making my own zine with a friend of mine and it was cheesy as hell, but it was fun.

My own story echoes John’s almost exactly. He finds a zine that’s published by a girl named Marisol and it is his mission to meet her. He does meet her one day at Tower Records while she’s dropping off new issues and they end up going out for coffee. Marisol likes John, but not in the way that he likes her…she’s a lesbian. But that doesn’t stop John from falling for her madly despite the fact that he knows that he won’t ever be with her in the way he wants to.

There were little things about John and Marisol that I just loved! Their quirky attitudes, their uniqueness, the passion and grief that they shared with each other, the fact that John swears an oath on a copy of J.D. Sallinger’s Nine Stories. They’re just an amazing couple of characters.

The book itself is wonderfully written and is actually designed like a zine in a way switching formats occasionally. Wittlinger did an amazing job creating likeable characters. And she did an even better job at setting up what proved to be a heartbreaking, yet very, very real situation. The ending is not happy, but it’s as happy as it can be. And I think it’s just perfect when books are realistic and end in that way. I could really talk about this book forever, but I’ll shut up now. It’s one of those books that you’d love to just talk about over coffee with a good friend.

This book is highly deserving of being a 2001 Printz finalist as well as deserving the LAMBDA award that it was given. Can’t wait to read more by Wittlinger!


17 Responses

  1. There is a companion novel/sequel that you might enjoy. I read it without having read this one first. And I think I probably would have liked it more if I’d read this one first. It’s told from Marison’s point of view.

  2. And I do *agree* with you about the Printz. Have you read The Body of Christopher Creed yet? If you haven’t you really should. It has you written all over it 🙂

  3. Becky, I didn’t know there was a companion novel!!! I’m really excited now. I liked Marisol a lot…she was a great character. Have you read Hard Love yet? And no! I hadn’t heard of The Body of Christopher Creed but I’m off to look for it now!!! Why do you do this to me Becky, why?! :p

  4. The Body of Christopher Creed is a Printz-something. It’s late and I can’t remember if it was the winner or just an honor. But it is one GREAT book. 🙂 So even if it didn’t meet the Printz-challenge requirements, I’d be pushing it 🙂

    I also think it would make a great read for the R.I.P Challenge. Speaking of which…Have you gotten to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies yet? I received Mr. Darcy, Vampyre this week and it was another great twist that would be fun for the R.I.P.

    I haven’t read Hard Love. I’ll try to get to it at some point. It frustrated me to read the second book first. (If it hadn’t been nominated for the Cybils, then I wouldn’t have done it in such a rush.) I felt I was only getting a fraction of the characterization. And I think my reaction to the book showed that. But you made Hard Love sound so great, I’m willing to revisit these characters. I’m guessing I’ll end up liking it.

  5. I really enjoy your blog — I have an award for you at A Sea Of Books 😉

  6. I was trying to resist, but then you broke out Nine Stories. So now I have to read this one!

  7. Oh, and if you haven’t read Nine Stories yet, you should!!

  8. A Printz Honor AND a Lambda? I am so there.

    PS: You’re reading The Book Thief!!!

  9. I would have got to this eventually because of the Printz Challenge, but you’ve so got me wanting to go find this one RIGHT NOW!!!!

  10. I’d like to second your review. I read Hard Love several years ago and remember it still. Most YA books tend to come and go in my mind, but this one has stuck around. It’s very good and it was fun to read about the ‘zine scene like you said.

  11. Ahhh! The ‘zine. I got so into them after attending a Democracy Rising rally down south. I was maybe a sophomore in college? My friends and I rented a house in the suburbs, got really big into the DIY scene, and even made glow in the dark “TV Turn Off” week posters that we stuck in our front yards (Hee hee, the neighbors had no idea what to make with our anti-establishment selves).

    But, really, back to the point of my response to this was the book, of course! – the book cover ROCKS! Seriously. I can’t help it, I know all about the ‘not judge a book by the cover’ rule, but I do. I’ll own up to it. 🙂

    Between you and CB, I”m sold.

  12. Becky, So I just went and bought it for the kindle app on my iphone and already breezed through the first few chapters 😀 It really is good so far! I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies yet, but I’m really dying to read it! I saw a few people read Mr. Darcy, Vampyre…looks cool. You’ll really like Hard Love…I promise 😉

    Gwendolyn, Thank you!!! You’re so sweet!!

    Eva, Believe it or not, I haven’t read Nine Stories!!! I’ve been meaning to though.

    Nymeth, Yep, you REALLY need to read this one!! It’s awesome.

    Debi, You should go get it…it’s a really quick read too.

    CB, I can definitely see this one sticking with me for awhile. It was so fantastic! Loved the idea about having a book revolve around the zine scene 😀

    Christina, Remember those? I wonder if people still do them…I never see them around anymore. Love the “TV Turn Off” signs that y’all made..that’s awesome :p The book cover really is cool! The whole book captures the feel of a zine. I judge books by their covers too btw :p

  13. I think I will have to go see if the library has this one. 🙂 I requested a bunch the other day, but I don’t think this was one of them. I remembered you were enjoying one, but I couldn’t remember the title!

  14. Nevermind, I already had it on hold. 🙂

  15. Aw, this brings back fond memories. It was one of the first books I reviewed on my blog, you know, before anyone knew I existed in the blogosphere(a state to which I will soon return if don’t start posting more….). I loved, loved it, too!

  16. Great review! I had never heard of this one, but it sounds a little different from my usual teen literature. I took note of the title thanks!

  17. This is so cool! I found this in a box of book when I cleaned my linen closet the other day – yes I do randomly place books and forget about them!
    Glad to hear you enjoyed it, I’m excited about reading it now 🙂 I remember when zines were all the rage – they still are quite popular around the city center still, but they look alot more pro then the old days.

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