Since the inception of the William C. Morris Award in 2009, I’ve only read two of the books nominated, but over half of them are sitting on my “to be read” bookshelf — shameful. When we announced the Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge, I was excited because I knew it would motivate me to read the books more than if I was left to my own devices. I was happy to see that some of the nominated tiles were ones I had listed in “want to read” on Goodreads.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Laura Buzo’s Love and Other Perishable Items on the list. The book was first published in Australia in 2010 under the title Good Oil. I am always looking for new contemporary titles since most of my teens seem to really crave these kinds of books. I figured when I started reading the book that it would be the standard “unrequited crush on an older coworker” story. I was mistaken.
This the story of 15-year-old Amelia and her crush on 22-year-old Chris. Amelia and Chris work at the “Land of Dreams,” which most people know as Cole Supermarket. The place is run by a motley group of young people ranging from 14 years old to managers in their mid- to late 20s. Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to work there, but most want to earn money as a way of helping themselves get along in life. Whether that be “supporting a pot habit” or Amelia’s reasoning of “a passionate aversion to asking my parents for money,” this group socializes together and tends to date one another — and things get interesting.
I thought the book was just going to be told from Amelia’s perspective, and I was happy with her voice. She may be young, but she is a really smart, strong character who also has opinions she is not afraid to share and is painfully aware of how hopeless her situation seems to be. She struggles with being the most inexperienced of the group and not having what it takes to pull off the confidence to go after what she wants. Just when we see her come out of her shell a bit more and actually address some of the things that are REALLY bothering her, the book takes a turn and we relive the past few months from Chris’s perspective, with the book taking on a new life.
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. A great moment in the book takes place when Amelia and Chris write each other letters in lieu of conversation. It’s the most honest they are with each other, and this section contains one of my favorite lines, summing them up quite well: “I can’t run my own race. I’m constantly checking what’s happening in the other lanes.” It’s easy to see why this book was nominated for the award.
— Faythe Arredondo, currently reading The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth