Review: Good Oil (Republished as Love and Other Perishable Items) by Laura Buzo

I hated this book. Hated it. I bumped it up to two stars simply to acknowledge the fact that Buzo knows how to string some good sentences together. But that’s not enough to save it from my rage, and it’s a rage born of bitter disappointment. I’ve been salivating to get my hands on a copy of Good Oil for years. It’s been heralded up there with the likes of Marchetta and Crowley, and so I knew I was in for a painfully realistic portrayal of coming-of-age and the attendant heartaches and triumphs of being in that transition phase of life.

I’m not even sure if what I got was a story. There is no resolution, no character growth, no perceivable underlying plot aside from the utter self-absortion of the two main characters. Perhaps that’s being a bit harsh on Amelia, as her only real flaw was in falling blind to the supposedly irresistible charms of her coworker Chris. Apart from that, she seemed to be an intelligent, well-meaning, clever fifteen-year-old who I probably would have hung out with at that age. I also

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

appreciated that, despite her youth and tendency to stay out of trouble, she wasn’t a complete goody, attending a few parties and imbibing some spirits at times. I’m not necessarily condoning her behavior, but it did make her seem a bit more three-dimensional, as even the most straight-laced of us did do some stupid things at that age.

Despite what I’d read about this book, I wasn’t expecting this to be a dual narrative, and since by the time Chris takes the page for the first time we’ve still only seen him through Amelia’s rose-tinted glasses, I was excited to get the male outlook on things. Unfortunately, it soon becomes clear that Amelia’s crush is not only borne of misplaced appreciation for being noticed, but is in fact the result of a complete misapprehension as to his character. Through Chris’s diary (which, given his general negativity toward life and his party-seeking ways, I’m not entirely sure is a believable habit to have endowed him with, but that’s a separate matter) we learn that every charming aspect that Amelia sees in Chris is actually well-cultivated and indiscriminate. He turns on the charisma with everyone, and Amelia makes little impression in his thoughts until well into the second half of the novel. Even after he admits that he understands Amelia’s worth, it is still only in comparison to the heartbreak that he continues to feel over the ex who dumped him a year ago. Every time he deigns to bestow some special attention on Amelia, it is a direct result of his own bitter angst and restless desire to forget his own life; it never really has to do with Amelia herself. His parting gift to her, the journals he’s kept since he was fifteen, are a brilliant example of both Chris’s inflated self-importance and Amelia’s naïvety, as only a fool would believe what he has to say is some sort of love letter to Amelia herself. He lies when he tells her that she features “quite a bit” in the later ones. She’s there in the background, manages to steal a whole entry at times, but exists only as a string of obsessive crushes and one-night-stands with nearly every other coworker they have. Add to this the fact that Chris clearly has a drinking problem, and the only decent thing I could discern about his character is the fact that, while he did sleep with sixteen-year-old Donna without a care, he intuitively realized he couldn’t be so blase about Amelia, because she is of worth.

Going into this novel, I was aware of how it would end, but I believed that along the way, I would get to witness some great character interaction and a sweetly romantic growth of affection between the characters. What I got was not even a shadow of that, and I feel robbed. I’d had such high hopes for this novel, and I’m sorry to say that it crushed nearly all of them. One good thing I can say about this release: the revised title is certainly more true to the nature of the romance in this story than was the last.

2 thoughts on “Review: Good Oil (Republished as Love and Other Perishable Items) by Laura Buzo

  1. Yikes, this one wasn’t even on my radar but thanks to your review, I’m going to be aware that this one certainly doesn’t seem like something I’d like. Lovely review. I love how crisp it is.

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