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

Wittlinger's (Lombardo's Law) somewhat overdramatized account of unrequited love explores the complexity of relationships in the 1990s. The story unfolds through the thoughts and writings of John Galardi, a high school student who pens a zine called Bananafish (in homage to J.D. Salinger). John claims he is "immune to emotion," until he meets fellow zine writer Marisol. But Marisol is a lesbian, and she makes it clear from the beginning that her relationship with John can go only so far. John's feelings for Marisol are clouded by his uncertainty about his own sexuality ("I'm not even sure if I'm gay or not," he admits to Marisol) and his anger toward both of his parentsÄhis mother, who has not touched him since her divorce five years ago, and his father, who "always manages to have pressing commitments on weekend nights" when John stays with him. John's simmering passions for Marisol, which come to a full boil at the prom, predictably lead to disaster. This self-consciously up-to-date novel scratches the surface of perhaps too many issues, but John's intelligent, literate yet raw entries betray more to readers than he knows of himself. The awkwardness of awakening sexuality, a growing preoccupation with identity, and crossing the line from friendship to more are all themes here with which teens will readily identify. Ages 12-up. (June) (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 7 Up-In the first line of this Printz Honor book by Ellen Wittlinger (S&S, 1999), John Galardi, a junior at suburban Darlington High School, tells us that he is "immune to emotion." John spends his weekdays and nights living with his divorced mother, who has literally not touched him in the six years since her divorce from John's sophisticated father, with whom he stays every weekend in Boston. Both parents assume he is getting enough emotional support from the other. John likes to read the zines that he picks up in Boston. He particularly likes Escape Velocity written by Marisol Guzman, a self-proclaimed "Puerto Rican Yankee Cambridge, Massachusetts, rich spoiled lesbian private-school gifted-and-talented writer virgin looking for love." When she mentions that there will be a new issue of her zine at Tower Records the next Saturday, John decides to wait for her to deliver it when he drops off his own zine, "Bananafish." A friendship develops around their writing and loneliness. Marisol believes in always living life to the fullest and never lying, all new concepts for John. As Marisol insists that John harness his inner resources and develop a zest for life, she exposes him to new things art, music, coffee and feelings. He can't keep himself from falling in love with her, a kind of love that she can't return. Humor flows out of John's struggle with complete honesty and his desire to remain cool and detached. Actor Mark Webber's reading (Snow Day, Drive Me Crazy) is absolutely perfect in tone for John's confused, sarcastic coolness. With the slightest inflection of his voice, he aptly portrays all of the characters in the novel. Listeners are intimately drawn into the story by this young, angst-filled voice. There is a bit of strong language, although it is always appropriate to the plot. Young adults will love the wit and poignancy of these two clever teens striving to discover who they are and if they are capable of making emotional connections.-Jo-Ann Carhart, East Islip Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.