Study Guide

Hard Love Introduction

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Hard Love Introduction

They say it's better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. We say to have loved and lost feels like a swift kick in the pants.

Not sure what this feels like? Just ask John Galardi. After his parents' divorce, he put walls up so no one can hurt him. But then one day, he meets complicated, self-aware Marisol, who isn't afraid to hide her lesbianism or her opinion on anything. The two quickly become friends, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Or is it? Yeah, not so fast. With a title like Hard Love, we expect a rough journey, and the book doesn't disappoint. Still, though, we're surprised when it hurts so much. We're sensitive souls around these parts, you know.

Ellen Wittlinger's 1999 novel garnered the Printz Honor Award for excellence in Young Adult Literature for its tale of teenage angst and unrequited love. This is no small feat, either, since people have been writing about love and loss since pretty much forever. No joke: Wittlinger keeps some pretty esteemed company in this department.

So buckle up, because it's going to be a bumpy ride. Unfortunately, however, there's no seatbelt for your heart.

What is Hard Love About and Why Should I Care?

In case you haven't listened to the radio lately, love hurts. Sure, it's all roses and sunny skies when you first fall in love, but pretty soon, it goes downhill. It's no wonder we hear so many songs about taking a sledgehammer to an ex's car, feeling black and blue, and knowing someone was trouble before he broke your heart. When love turns sour, feelings can curdle quickly.

In Hard Love, John knows this to be true. He's so happy to finally have a friend whom he can confide in, one who knows about writing and just gets him. Most of us know the feeling, right? When we meet someone that we connect with right away, we want to get to know that person all the more. So we don't blame John for spending so much time with Marisol… but we're not sure we can explain what happens next.

Even though Marisol is gay, and John knows this, he falls for her. And hard. He knows he doesn't have a shot, but he convinces himself he does anyway because they're such good friends. It's pretty terribly misguided, and things take a turn for the worse between these two pals.

Even if you've never fallen for someone who swings the other way, though, we're willing to bet you know what it's like to have a crush on someone who just isn't available. Because the thing is, sometimes you just can't help who you fall in love with. The radio would be pretty silent otherwise.

We just wonder if John would do it all again. Okay, actually we know the answer to that one, but you're going to have to read on to find out.

Hard Love Resources


All About Ellen
The author's website, complete with discussion guides and FAQs.

Articles and Interviews

Let's Discuss
A guide from the author about her inspiration for the book, along with project ideas inspired by Hard Love.

The Lowdown on Wittlinger
The author answers questions about her writing style, journal, and her personal life. And guess what? She used to be a children's librarian.

Not Enough to Say
Can't get enough of the author? Then head on over to this interview.


Love Tease
A trailer for the book, Hard Love.

"Hard Love"—the Song
Check out Bob Franke singing his heart out.


Up Close and Personal
Meet author Ellen Wittlinger.

We've got you covered
Just like the book, this cover is complicated and messy, but beautiful.

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