Study Guide

Hard Love Friendship

By Ellen Wittlinger

Friendship

Brian looked squashed, which, I have to admit, was the look I was after. I'm really a pretty crappy friend. (1.14)

Messing with your friend for no reason? Yeah, John treats Brian like dirt—on purpose—and then gets surprised when he doesn't have any friends. It's clear that John just doesn't get how to treat people right (which—surprise—most people expect in a friend).

I had to laugh, which probably wasn't the response Brian was expecting. But I don't mind him zinging me back. It's the only reason we're friends at all. We recognized each other the first day we met—two hollow souls trying to pass for normal. Together we still add up to zero, but at least our hopelessness has a twin. It works well enough. I don't mind hanging around with a kindly fool, and Brian doesn't mind hanging around with a witty misanthrope. And it appears to the world as if we each have at least one friend. (1.18)

Poor John even admits he doesn't have any other friends, and that he's only friends with Brian in the first place because they can rag on each other. It doesn't seem like much of a friendship to us. Over time, John figures out there's more to being a friend than just mocking someone.

"It's so weird that we're, sort of, friends," she said. "But I guess stranger things have happened." (5.76)

Marisol and John are certainly an unlikely coupling since neither of them trusts anyone or lets outsiders in. We couldn't have said this better ourselves. They realize it's weird for them to become friends, but little do they know how weird things are about to get.

"I can't believe I ever thought we were friends," she said. "You really fooled me, Gio." I thought there might have been tears in her eyes, but she turned quickly and walked away while I was still testing my jaw for breakage. (6.90)

When John hurts Marisol, she states her surprise at their friendship. Here's the million-dollar question for you: Is John a good friend to Marisol? Sure, she's in a heated moment, but how does John show Marisol that he's a worthy friend?

It made me feel like things weren't so hopeless, like I wasn't the biggest fool on earth, like summer was coming and proms weren't important and Marisol was all the friend I needed. (8.86)

Marisol's friendship changes John. No longer is he so down-in-the-dumps and locked in his room all the time—now he actually wants to get out and do stuff, to be in the world and see new things. It's clear she has a good effect on him.

"We have fun together, and sometimes I almost trust him. Since the tickets are free, he'll probably go, but maybe not. It means spending an entire day with me, which is probably a lot more than he bargained for. He likes to talk to me about writing, but he didn't sign up to be my best friend. Nobody ever does, which might be my own damn fault, but, Mother dear, today I feel like blaming you." (9.54)

In her letter to her mom, Marisol confides that she's not sure if John even wants to be her bestie or not. Luckily for her, though, not only is he totally interested, he wants to start the job right away. Phew.

I guess I couldn't blame him for not knowing, since I usually act like I'm doing him a big favor hanging out with him. There must be some secret formula for how much to tell people about that kind of stuff. Not too little, but not too much either. Obviously, it was a secret nobody told me. "Who else would be my best friend?" I said. "You and Marisol. You're my only friends." (13.17)

When Brian asks if he is John's best friend, John can't blame him for questioning—after all, John isn't the warmest guy around. Plus, he goes out of his way to push Brian out and make fun of him. We'd like to point out that his epiphany here only takes place after John's been spending time with Marisol, though, learning how to let people in.

Her hand felt like the part of me I was missing. "The problem is," I said, "it's hard for me to be your best friend now that—" (16.30)

… he's in love with her. Yep, that tends to make things a little awkward. Marisol doesn't know how to act around John now that he wants to be more than friends. She feels hurt that he would even try something, considering he's supposed to be her closest confidante.

"Your friend Brian was here most of the morning. He and his girlfriend were poring over this map of Cape Cod like it was going to tell them where you were. He was ready to organize a search party, get out the bloodhounds. That's a good friend you've got there, John." (16.61)

Al fills John in about what's been happening since he left for the convention. It turns out John's real friend was there all along. So while Marisol leaves as fast as she can say escape velocity, Brian sticks it out to be with his buddy, especially in his time of need.

She poked her finger at me. "Not because I wanted to start dating you—are you listening to me?" She glared at me, and I worked to disguise my sudden glee. "Just because I felt so comfortable with you. I almost never feel very comfortable with anybody. I liked being with you. It made being close to someone feel like it might be… safe." (17.26)

It's bittersweet for John to hear this from Marisol, but it's also what he needs to understand. Even though they can't be romantic, there's a love and connection between the two of them that is undeniable. Their friendship is strong and based on that connection, so let's just hope it can withstand her move to the Big Apple.