The Compulsive Reader: Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger

John thinks he's a cynic. He takes a bit of pride in the fact that he claims not to feel emotion, and blames it on his father who always seems glad to get rid of him after every weekend, and his mother hasn't touched him since he was ten years old. John's escape is zines, his own and one called Escape Velocity, written by Marisol, known as a "Puerto Rican Cuban Yankee lesbian". When they finally get a chance to meet, Marisol makes John swear never to lie to her. But even as he makes that oath, John already has, and as his little lies (both to Marisol and himself) get bigger and he and Marisol get closer, both of them will have to learn to stop lying and tell the truth, no matter what the consequences.

From the moment you meet John, you're hooked on his very distinguishable voice and cavalier attitude, even if his behavior does seem despicable at times. Readers will have no problem summing up sympathy for him and in the same moment exasperation as he continues to lie his way throughout the story. But as John is continually exposed to Marisol and truly explores his feelings, the reader will find surprising depth and character. It's the complex, three dimensional characters that make this novel so indelible and irresistible, and their imperfections that give it life. Hard Love leaves off without a clear, positive ending, but instead with hope for the future, which is a million times better.

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