Study Guide

Hard Love Plot Analysis

By Ellen Wittlinger

Plot Analysis

Exposition

Boy Meets Girl

We kick things off with John meeting Marisol, a complicated writer who is brutally honest in her zine but guarded in real life. This is fine and dandy with John, though, since he's as guarded as they come—he even claims to be immune to emotion. Marisol is pretty cool, though, and if he could be friends with anyone, it would be someone like her. But he's definitely not interested in becoming friends with benefits because he does not care about love. This is where everything begins, Shmoopers—without Marisol, John doesn't have much of a life or a story. 

Rising Action

Boy and Girl Become Best Friends

Against all odds, John and Marisol become BFFs. They're both used to shutting everyone out, but they actually connect with one another on a level that no one else gets. She likes how truthful his writing is, and he loves how well she knows herself. The two starts hanging out more often than not, and even spend the night together… just as friends. Of course, people start questioning the nature of their relationship, especially when John asks Marisol to prom. Looks like it's going to get complicated for the unlikely duo.

Climax

Boy Falls Head Over Heels for Girl

Things start to get complicated when John falls for Marisol. Sure, he doesn't mean to, but that doesn't change the dynamic in their relationship: John wants to be more than just friends, but Marisol can't give him any more than she's already offering. This causes a huge rift between our main duo because they can't go back to the way things were. They are at a turning point in their relationship, just like we are in the novel. 

Falling Action

Girl Flees and Breaks Boy's Heart

Cue the fall out: Marisol doesn't think it's fair that John fell for her even though he knew she is a lesbian, while John, on the other hand, claims he couldn't help it. You don't plan these things. The falling action takes place when Marisol leaves for New York. Sure, it rips John's heart out and stomps on it, but it's the first step for Marisol in figuring out who she really is, and for John in accepting that she can't love him the way he loves her. It's messy and complicated, but who said falling action was easy?

Resolution

Boy Finds Himself

In the end, John learns about who he really is without the teenage angst and drama he's been living through after his parents' divorce. Things aren't perfect—or anywhere close to it—but he isn't as scared of everyone anymore. He's opened himself up, gotten hurt, and managed to survive. So why not repeat? Perhaps he doesn't want to throw himself into his next relationship just yet, but he knows that when he does he'll be okay, and he's excited to find love again.

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