CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 33. . . .April 26, 2013
Love Hurts. (SideStreets).
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer & Co., 2013.
139 pp., pbk., hc., & ebook, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.), $8.95 (ebook).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0366-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0367-3 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0368-0 (ebook).
Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.
Review by Kris Rothstein.
My cell rings. It’s Colter. I don’t answer.
He texts me. “I love u. dont shut me out.”
I switch off my phone and shove it in my pocket. With barely room for a sink and toilet, the washroom feels like it’s closing in on me. Peyton and I make a plan to sneak up to her bedroom. We take a couple of steps out the door, and suddenly he’s there, grabbing my arm.
“Talk to me. Come on, baby, you know I’d never hurt you.”
Peyton steps between us. “You’d better leave.”
His anger is gone, and I need answers, so I finally agree. Peyton doesn’t want to leave us alone, but I promise her I’ll be fine. We sit across from each other in the living room, and I fix my eyes on the oriental carpet, waiting for him to speak.
“The way he was holding you – I thought he was coming on to you.” He sounds tired, defeated.
Gripping the arms of the chair, I shake my head. “You called me a slut.”
“Come on,” he says. “It was the booze talking – the words just slopped out of my mouth. You know I don’t feel that way.”
I answer him with a glare. “Did the alcohol make you throw me into the wall, too?”
“I’d never hurt you. I was going after him.” When I don’t say anything he tosses his hands up. “I didn’t even throw a punch. Hey, I’m a guy. We tend to go a little insane when we think someone is hitting on our girlfriends!”
Who is this guy? Part of me wants to tell him to screw off and end this relationship right away. But just a few hours ago, I was happy. Should I give it all up for the sake of one bad night?
Mel has a thing for her best friend Dustin, and it’s probably mutual. But they have a problem with timing, and now Dustin is all over his current girlfriend, Gina, who hates Mel. So when Mel meets sexy new guy Colter and he’s interested in her right away, she decides to go for it. He’s fun and really cute, even if he’s a little clingy. And he’s not a great influence – cajoling Mel into skipping volleyball tryouts and missing class. Mel is a little worried when she finds pictures of his ex-girlfriend who looks exactly like her. And she’s super worried when, after a few dates, he buys her a diamond ring and tells her he loves her. Things are way too intense, but she isn’t sure how to shut them down. It doesn’t help that Mel is still living in Sarnia after her parents moved to Alberta to find work; Mel’s Aunt Stella isn’t much of a guardian and is never home to give advice. Mel is smart enough to try to end the relationship, but Colter won’t take no for an answer and shows that he is even more dangerous and obsessed than Mel could have imagined.
Love Hurts packs a lot into a short book: abusive boyfriends, racism, bullying, family relationships, reputations and stereotypes. None of these are explored in much depth, but, because this is a reluctant reader novel, it doesn’t affect the quality of the storytelling. Each issue is actually developed well in miniature. For example, some kids spread rumours that Mel isn’t interested in Dustin because he is First Nations; she shows that it is obviously false; and readers see that some characters are prejudiced and some aren’t.
The main issue, of course, is the danger of stalkers, abusive partners and obsessive relationships. Colter is the classic charmer who sweeps a girl off her feet before revealing his darker side. The plot development shows how a smart girl can end up with an abusive boyfriend. It also shows the many permutations a relationship can take and how a dangerous boyfriend might have a seemingly reasonable explanation for his bad behaviour. The overall scenario is very believably crafted, and the story is both educational and entertaining. The most effective aspect of the story arc is that Mel remains steadfast in her determination to be an independent person, despite some hiccups along the way and the embarrassment she feels after putting herself in a compromising position.
Mel is a great protagonist. She is easy for a lot of kids to relate to because she’s fairly smart, but is a slacker, isn’t really sure what she wants to do with her life and feels under-appreciated at school and at home. She is strong and doesn’t usually let people push her around. She is quite unusual and nuanced for a teen character.
The story moves along at a fast pace, but it rarely feels rushed. Love Hurts isn’t particularly subtle in its exploration of current teen issues, but it is definitely an enjoyable read.
Kris Rothstein is a children’s book agent and reviewer in Vancouver, BC.
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