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Love & Lies: Marisol's Story
A few years back I happened upon a young adult novel by Ellen Wittlinger called "Hard Love," which revolved around a straight guy named John (or Gio) Galardi who befriends and then falls in love with a lesbian named Marisol. I really liked the novel, which dealt with an atypical romance in an interesting way. So when I happened upon the sequel, I snapped it up quickly to see what happens next in the saga of these interesting characters.
As you can probably tell from the subtitle, this story is told from the perspective of Marisol, who has put off college for a year so she can write a novel. To help get her creative juices flowing, she decides to join an adult education creative writing class, wherein she re-encounters Gio, who she proceeds to attempt to delicately rebuild her friendship with. Even more importantly, she falls head over heels in love with her teacher, a beautiful and brilliant woman named Olivia Frost. Combined with having to deal with her roommate/best friend Birdie's tendency to bring home strays (including a hairy new boyfriend, Damon), befriending a younger lesbian named Lee who's just moved to Boston, and dealing with the cafe she's working at shutting down, this is going to be a busy year for Marisol.
My favorite part of the book was the rebuilding of the relationship with Gio. "Hard Love" ended on kind of a sad note, with not all of the emotional baggage completely dealt with. "Love & Lies" builds on those loose ends, with two people who really want to be in each other's lives but are unsure of how struggling through it. It was heartwarming and poignant in parts, and I especially liked how it never descended to the cliche of Marisol assuming that Gio's concern over her relationship with Olivia (this very quickly becomes one of those stories where the protagonist is dating the wrong person and needs to realize) is based on his own unresolved feelings for Marisol.
I also liked the relationship with Lee. While this relationship's place in the story is more obvious and traditional than Marisol's relationship with Gio (Lee is the "correct" person for Marisol to date that Marisol doesn't see until it's too late), I liked how it grew naturally and organically from within the story. I also liked how Lee, who Marisol starts out as sort of a mentor for, doesn't allow the older girl to give her crap, and in several cases punctures Marisol's self-importance (for instance by exposing how little Marisol knows of the Midwest).
I did like how Marisol had to remind herself she was in love with Olivia, which struck me as a very true-to-life detail of being in a relationship with someone wrong for you, but I didn't like her character that much, even as a villain you're not supposed to like. She seemed like a black hole of emptiness that gets filled with maliciousness, with motivations that seem to come out of nowhere. I was also not impressed when it took a rather ridiculous coincidence to reveal what was going on with her at the end of the story.
The ending is a rather interesting one. Without giving anything away, much like "Hard Love," it isn't a completely happy one, although there is a sense of hope towards the end. Also like "Hard Love," it seems to be written so a possible sequel, one dealing with the emotional baggage from this book, could be written. if that occurred, I would be very interested in reading that book.
I really think anyone wanting to read this book should read "Hard Love" first, although it's not strictly necessary. The plots are self-contained, and what needs to be known is explained, but to really understand Marisol's relationship with Gio (which, while not the most critical element to the story is important, as well as being the best part in my opinion) it's necessary to read the previous book.
So if you're a fan of Ellen Wittlinger's books, or just want to check out a story with very interesting characters, look for this book or "Hard Love." They are very much worth reading.