In Love and Other Perishable Items Amelia, 15, and Chris, 21, fall in love while working together at a grocery store. They’re both trapped in unfulfilling lives for different reasons and find kindred spirits in one another. Of course, acting on their feelings is illegal until Amelia reaches the age of consent.
What surprised me the most about this book was how quickly it was labelled controversial. It’s difficult for me to argue against that label without giving away spoilers but this story is pretty tame even under the standards of mainstream teen fiction.
Teenagers falling in love with older people is nothing new. It happened regularly in the small, midwestern town where I lived as an adolescent and young adult. A childhood friend started dating a guy who was in high school when we were in the 7th grade. I lost touch with her after graduation but during our senior year of school they were planning their wedding.
Not everything in life is black and white.
Another story: one of my closest friends in junior high and early high school was a a gifted writer and one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. He also smoked weed. A lot of it. On paper the quiet, obedient, honors student that I was had nothing in commons with this boy and yet he’s the only classmate I miss. Our connection was never romantic but I’d love to see how his life turned out.
No, I’m not encouraging anyone to break the law. But we do teens – everyone, in fact – a disservice when we assume that their feelings aren’t real or that if we mention “controversial” subjects without sermonizing they’ll take that conversation as a license to do whatever they want.
It’s entirely possible to read a book, listen to a song or watch a movie without emulating the characters.
It’s also possible that nuanced discussions on topic X make people less likely to try it in unsafe ways. I almost always saw through the myths adults told me about sex, alcohol and other hot topics. What they really taught me was that their opinions couldn’t be trusted but factually accurate information is empowering.