Cover image for Hard love
Hard love
Wittlinger, Ellen.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, [1999]

Physical Description:
224 pages ; 22 cm
After starting to publish a zine in which he writes his secret feelings about his lonely life and his parents' divorce, sixteen-year-old John meets an unusual girl and begins to develop a healthier personality.
Reading Level:
680 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.4 7.0 31582.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.5 13 Quiz: 20843 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



Since his parents' divorce, John's mother hasn't touched him, her new fiancé wants them to move away, and his father would rather be anywhere than at Friday night dinner with his son. It's no wonder John writes articles like "Interview with the Stepfather" and "Memoirs from Hell." The only release he finds is in homemade zines like the amazing Escape Velocity by Marisol, a self-proclaimed "Puerto Rican Cuban Yankee Lesbian." Haning around the Boston Tower Records for the new issue of Escape Velocity, John meets Marisol and a hard love is born.While at first their friendship is based on zines, dysfuntional families, and dreams of escape, soon both John and Marisol begin to shed their protective shells. Unfortunately, John mistakes this growing intimacy for love, and a disastrous date to his junior prom leaves that friendship in ruins. Desperately hoping to fix things, John convinces Marisol to come with him to a zine conference on Cape Cod. On the sandy beaches by the Bluefish Wharf Inn, John realizes just how hard love can be.With keen insight into teenage life, Ellen Wittlinger delivers a story of adolescence that is fierce and funny -- and ultimately transforming -- even as it explores the pain of growing up.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-12. John spends weekends with his fair-weather, playboy father and the rest of the week with an emotionally fragile mother, who hasn't touched him since his father left them. She would rather let a jar shatter on the floor than brush against her son's fingers. Although he believes himself to be "immune to emotion," he reveals his loneliness and alienation in his zine, Bananafish. When he forces a meeting with Marisol, a testy, gifted, and talented senior, who is the author of his favorite zine, Escape Velocity, he finds exactly what he hoped for--a kindred spirit. This unique, magical, and sometimes awkward friendship leads to love, at least for John. The feeling is not mutual; Marisol is a lesbian. Through warmth and connection, wreckage and pain, lies and truths, and a whole lot of writing back and forth, John discovers he has feelings after all. Theme, plot, conflict, pacing--everything works in this extraordinarily sophisticated, multilayered book. John's voice is an exceptional balance of wry, caustic wit and aching vulnerability. Both John and Marisol are interesting and deeply attractive young people, replete with quirks, flaws, and complex emotional content. Even minor characters on the edges of the story are wonderfully crafted and convincing. Teenagers should be prepared to laugh, wince, rage, weep, and heave at least one deep sigh when they read this meaningful story. Highly recommended for high school readers. --Holly Koelling

Publisher's Weekly Review

PW said of this novel about the complex friendship between high school friends, "The awkwardness of awakening sexuality, a growing preoccupation with identity and crossing the line from friendship to more are themes here with which teens will readily identify." Ages 12-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-John, "a witty misanthrope," meets and falls for zine writer Marisol, a "rich spoiled lesbian private-school gifted-and-talented writer virgin looking for love." A bittersweet tale of self-expression and the struggle to achieve self-love. (July) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-Teen angst is always a popular route for young adult literature, and Wittlinger has successfully created an intense example here. John is a high school junior whose difficult family life has left him feeling lost and confused. He discovers the world of "zines," homemade magazines written and published by people like himself. Soon John meets another zine writer, Marisol, a self-proclaimed "Puerto Rican Cuban Yankee Cambridge, Massachusetts, rich spoiled lesbian private-school gifted-and-talented writer virgin looking for love." These mismatched teens discover that they are kindred spirits, and a close friendship develops. Unfortunately, John finds himself falling for Marisol, who cannot return his love. Together, they discover many truths about themselves and their families. Familiar motifs are part of this story-love, sex, the prom, fights with parents-but Wittlinger's telling and rich characters make them new and different. The dialogue and situations are well crafted, and the story, while a bit melodramatic, is engaging. The world of zine writing is real, and teens reading Hard Love may find themselves inspired to go out and pick up a few, and perhaps begin discovering their own creative talents. This is a smart addition to YA collections and a good recommendation to readers who may be feeling outside the norm.-Dina Sherman, Brooklyn Children's Museum, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.