Thursday, June 12, 2008

Book Review: Love & Lies: Marisol's Story, by Ellen Wittlinger

Eighteen-year-old Marisol Guzman knows what she wants out of life and how to get it. She came out two years ago and is ready for adult life and true love. Marisol's been accepted to Stanford, but has deferred for a year to write her first novel. She's found a job in an old-school cafe in Harvard Square, signed up for a writing class, and moved into a rundown apartment with her best friend Birdie. Marisol is ready: Let life begin!

Only life's not that simple, is it? First Marisol falls prey to her older, glamorous writing teacher, Olivia Frost. Then Birdie brings a new (and large) boyfriend and a few scruffy pets into their already crowded apartment. Marisol's new friend Lee, a sweet teen from Indiana who is living temporarily with her sister in Boston, falls in love with Marisol, while Marisol just wants to be Lee's friend and mentor.

It's a teenagery mess, isn't it? But what makes Love & Lies: Marisol's Story stand out from the crowd is Wittlinger's characterization and unflinching eye for the truth. Marisol is no shrinking violet and never sells herself short, even when uncertain. She's not even scared on the first day of writing class when she's the youngest student in the room. Comparing herself to another student, Marisol says, "I'm a confident person, so I recognize a fellow egoist, and my ardent hope was that this guy couldn't tell a pronoun from an adjective." It's a pleasure to read a Young Adult novel with a protagonist as forthright and as confident as Marisol. Sure she makes mistakes, but she's always on the lookout for a new experience and something to write about.

And speaking of writing, the first novel plays a big role in Love & Lies. As Marisol writes her first novel, she finds she puts a lot of her own life in her scribblings. And by following Olivia's writing advice (which all turns out to be plagiarized), Marisol learns she has a story to tell even though she's just eighteen years old. Highly recommended.

Love & Lies: Marisol's Story is a companion book to Wittlinger's Hard Love (2001).

Love & Lies: Marisol's Story will be out in July 2008 from Simon & Schuster.
Review copy