Laura Buzo, a social worker by profession, clearly understands the lives and concerns of young people, even if the young people about whom she writes are the kind of precocious youths who use words like “sangfroid” and who discuss Great Expectations and third-wave feminism on their lunch breaks.

Lunch breaks play a key role in Buzo’s debut novel, Love and Other Perishable Items (originally published under a different title in Buzo’s native Australia in 2010), seeing as it's set primarily in a Sydney grocery store, where both 15-year-old Amelia and 21-year-old Chris work as checkers. Amelia’s a stellar high school student and Chris is an under-motivated university student who may drink a little more than is good for him. But they both enjoy reading and thinking and discussing everything under the sun. The only problem? Amelia leaps headlong from their conversations into a fierce, overwhelming crush, while Chris just views their banter as a harmless distraction from everything else in his life, especially his idealized ex-girlfriend.

Buzo tells the story from both Amelia’s and Chris’ points of view, in sections that are different in style and also offset in time, so we see Chris’ take on events many pages after they are narrated in Amelia’s sections. Seeing the two of them as individuals, the reader may become increasingly convinced that Amelia—with her starry-eyed romanticism—and Chris—with his heartache and hard edges—might need more than witty banter to make them a couple.

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