First Job + First Crush: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

Love and other Perishable Items by Laura Buzoloveandotherperishableitems

Published: December 11th 2012 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published in Australia as Good Oil in 2010)

Source: local library

Synopsis (Goodreads): 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? Through a year of befuddling firsts—first love, first job, first party, and first hangover—debut author Laura Buzo shows how the things that break your heart can still crack you up.

My thoughts: Oh my god, you guys. This is so adorable, I can’t even…Laura Buzo GETS IT. Love and Other Perishable Items captures the essence of unrequited love and inappropriate attraction and honestly portrays awkward teenagers and slacker twenty-somethings. In the tradition of awesome Aussie YA, it captures your heart even if it is a quiet and un-dramatic story.

There are not enough young adult novels that focus on first jobs and the complicated social dynamic surrounding them. While reading about Amelia’s job in her local grocery store, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my first job (which until I worked at the library was my favorite job ever). Then, when Amelia falls for the smart, if a bit lost, older guy, I couldn’t help but be reminded on my own crush on an older boy (which also never worked out, even though we got to get drunk in a hotel bar together in Salt Lake City when I was in my twenties).

The interactions between the characters in Love and Other Perishable Items felt authentic. The mix of teenagers, twenty-something burnouts, and college students pass the time working their shifts in the check out lane by swapping stories, discussing philosophy, and sizing each up as potential romantic interests. This book had a very timeless feel to it. As specific and nuanced as these characters and their conversations are, they touch on familiar and universal coming-of-age themes, which will give it staying power. It just feels so damn universal.

I’m not usually a fan of dual perspective books told from a first person perspective, especially when they cover the same ground. But because we hear from Chris through his journal and Amelia in narration, and the sections were longer, it worked. Both character’s voice were distinct and it was interesting to see the relationship from the point of view of two young adults at very different stages of their lives.

The discussion of feminism was a delightful surprise. The way Chris introduces Amelia to more nuanced feminist thought not only endeared him to me, it made me fall in love with this book. It didn’t feel like it was shoehorned into the story to prove a point; it felt organic.

Normally, a relationship between a 21-year-old college student and a 15-year-old high school student would be creepy, but you can’t help but cheer for Amelia and Chris a little bit even if you know it will never work out. Love and and Other Perishable Items captures that longing and yearning of a first crush and the disappointment when you know that timing rather than compatibility keeps a relationship from going anywhere.

Chris and Amelia are in different stages of the transition to adulthood, yet their experiences mirror each other and bring them together as much as they doom any romance. I can’t think of another novel that explores this type of relationship, which is part of the reason Love and Other Perishable Items stands out from the crowd of contemporary YA.

Recommended for fans of:

  • Melina Marchetta’s contemporary novels 
  • Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Second opinions:

The Flyleaf Review: “It is a true coming of age story in that it examines those pivotal moments we all face as we move from childhood to adulthood. There aren’t any major dramas to be found in Love and Other Perishable Items. No one dies. No one goes to jail. No one has abusive families. That’s not to say that those everyday, common moments don’t seem big at the time. While you are living them they feel monumental.  And Love and Other Perishable Items captures all of those moments that feel so monumental  just beautifully.”

The Hub: “It would be easy to just classify the book as teen contemporary, but I saw it as much more. We see Amelia struggle with her family life and learning she may be a feminist. We see Chris struggle with his growing fascination with Amelia. Both characters are struggling with their lives and how to live them, but they seem to find solace in one another and find it both comforting and scary. “

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4 thoughts on “First Job + First Crush: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

  1. I never thought of the worker dynamic and the first job context of the book when I read it, but I do like you pointing it out because it makes so much sense! My first job as a teen was a server at a bingo hall, and I must say we were all a little strange and different age groups yet we made it work even with the awkwardness that seem to circle us.
    – Krys

  2. Lovely review! I, also, am not really a fan of dual narration, but every review I’ve read about this has convinced me that perhaps I won’t feel too terribly about in in this novel. It is really nice that you were able to connect this book to yourself and your experiences. Definitely makes reading a book so much more of a meaningful experience.

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