Study Guide

Hard Love

Hard Love Summary

Meet high school junior John Galardi, Jr., a dude who's cynical to a fault, immune to emotion, and hates his parents. They got divorced when he was a kid and ever since, his mom has been depressed and won't touch him—no really, no contact—and his dad is even worse. The guy ran out on them and doesn't want a family, but takes him out for pizza every Friday night like clockwork. Ugh.

When John meets mysterious and cool Marisol after reading her writing, we expect the two to push each other away. He is, after all, the world's most jaded person, and she's competing for the prize. Miraculously, however, the two become friends.

Marisol and John start hanging out. At first it's whenever John's in town visiting his dad, but pretty quickly, the pair read each other their writing, go to concerts, and grab dinner together. While all of this is happening, John is dealing with his abandonment issues.

Somehow, Marisol gets John to break out of his shell a bit. John's buddy Brian even encourages him to ask Marisol to prom, and when he does, she accepts, buys a dress, and arrives just in time for the limo. The only problem? Marisol's a lesbian, and John knows it.

Not only that, but he's known from the very beginning, which leaves Marisol pretty confused when he tries to kiss her at prom. She's not sure what he's up to, but he's fallen in love with her. She feels betrayed—like he doesn't even know who she is, even though she's told him repeatedly—and what's more, John feels let down. He just doesn't get Marisol's reaction to his pass at her. Hello, major misunderstanding.

Since they both write zines, John and Marisol decide to attend a zine convention together; plus, Marisol thinks it would be a good idea for John to see her out and proud. Before they leave, John writes letters to his parents explaining how much he hates their guts. While at the convention, Marisol meets a girl named June and goes dancing with her and John gets super jealous, even though he doesn't want to admit it. He spends time with his new friend Diana, though, and talks to her about his feelings. Phew.

Marisol decides she's going to run away to New York with June. She doesn't want to leave John, but she knows they can't keep pretending nothing happened, and while she really cares about him, she can't love him like that. Besides, she wants to figure out who she is without her parents or anyone else around. John's heartbroken, but he gets that Marisol's already made up her mind.

John breaks down and calls his mom. He feels badly for giving her such a mean letter, even if it is partly true, but he talks to her and they agree to talk about stuff more and work things out. Things aren't perfect, but at least they are being honest with each other—it's a start. As for his dad, the guy's ticked off and probably will be for a while. John doesn't talk to him and doesn't really care what happens next. He's finally ready to let people in, even if it means he might get hurt in the process, so though he's nervous, he's going to get out there and try.

  • Chapter 1

    • John is immune to emotion, or, so he says. In fact, when we first meet the guy, he's purposely annoying his buddy Brian just to see what happens.
    • Brian wants to audition for The Sound of Music at school because his latest crush, Violet, is Maria in it and he figures that if he gets into the musical, he'll get to spend a bunch of time with Violet and she'll like him, too.
    • John isn't amused. He doesn't have time for chicks and certainly doesn't want to hang around watching Brian make a fool of himself.
    • Brian runs off to the auditions, and John heads home, where he writes "Interview with the Stepfather."
    • You probably guessed it's an interview between a kid and his new stepdad. The guy isn't all that interested in the kid, but he's sweet on the kid's mom, so he's going to stick around.
    • The boy wants to hang out with his new stepdad and pull pranks together, but the guy didn't sign up for that.
    • John tells us he's not sure what it means, but that it makes him think of Al, his mom's boyfriend. He's never had a conversation like this one with Al, but writing it makes it seem true, which is part of what he thinks makes writing so interesting.
    • The story is for John's zine, a homemade magazine with articles and drawings, all done by John; a bunch of high school and college students make them around where John lives.
    • This is his first zine, and he calls it Bananafish. John thumbs through another zine he has lying around, called Escape Velocity.
    • It's written by a seventeen-year-old named Marisol, though John thinks she's too cool to be in high school. He learns a lot about Marisol's life from her zine, like the fact that her dad is a Cuban immigrant who teaches college and that her mom has a Dorothy Hamill haircut.
    • John's struck by how well Marisol seems to know herself. She lays it all out on the page, revealing that she's adopted, a lesbian, and hasn't lost her v-card.
    • Still, he's not sure if all everything she writes is true, or if it's just for her zine. He figures he'll use a nom de plume for his zine, and signs it "Giovanni."
    • John tells his mom he needs to borrow the car to go out for a bit. She's sitting alone in the dark. Uh-oh… He thought she was done with that now that Al was around.
    • His mom says she's "thinking." When John asks her what about, she fills him in: Al asked her to marry him, and she has to mull it over. Great.
    • She's not sure, and wants John to help her decide. How's he supposed to know? He barely knows the guy.
    • As she hands over the keys to car, John thinks about the list of Shakespearean insults that he saw in Escape Velocity.
    • He likes the idea of calling someone a "peevish ill-nurtured milsop," mainly because they won't know what it means. Translation? An annoying scrawny kid who lacks courage.
    • John flips to the back of the zine and learns that the title is "the speed at which a body must travel to escape the gravitational pull of another body." Hmm… he likes that, especially the part about breaking free.
    • He hands over his zine to the lady in the copy store. As he waits for copies of his zine to be made, she asks him who he wrote it for… a girlfriend perhaps? Nope, just himself.
  • Chapter 2

    • At 11:00AM on Saturday, John watches out for Marisol to drop off the next edition of Escape Velocity—he really wants to meet her, and figures this is the only way to do it.
    • Plus, he brought along copies of his own zine to see how people respond.
    • Since it's the weekend, he's at his dad's place in Boston. His mom lives in Darlington, not far from there, and he stays with her during the week.
    • He and his dad have a ritual (if you want to call it that): His dad takes him out for pizza on Friday night and then proceeds to ignore him the rest of the weekend. John knows that he crimps his dad's playboy style.
    • Of course he doesn't let his mom in on any of this—she'd totally flip out, and then he'd have to have a talk about it.
    • Sometimes Brian comes along for the ride to Boston and hangs out with him on the weekend. If you ask Brian, the girls in the city are way cooler. John's take? He's not interested in girls, guys, or the idea of love at all. He doesn't trust it, for one thing.
    • While John is mulling this over, a stack of Escape Velocity zines hit the floor next to him. Could that be the girl who writes them?
    • She's not at all what he imagined. For one thing, she's tiny—he pictured a big, imposing sort of gal—and besides, she's in all black, including her hair.
    • In his excitement to meet Marisol, he didn't exactly write down what he was going to say, so he asks her if Marisol is her real name, but accidentally comes off more creepy than friendly. It turns out that is her name, but she's not all that interested in sharing that much about herself.
    • John offers her a copy of his zine, which she reluctantly takes. Marisol notices the author's name is Giovanni and asks him if that's really his name.
    • Yep, John replies. His family is Italian. It's not a total lie since his last name is Galardi and they were originally from Italy, way back when.
    • Okay, whatever, is Marisol's response. She's a Puerto Rican Cuban Yankee lesbian, so she's got the exotic market cornered. She turns to leave, but John invites her for coffee or ice cream.
    • Marisol points out that it's freezing outside and she's a lesbian so she doesn't want to go on a date with a guy.
    • No, it's not like that, John counters—he just wants to hang out.
    • She agrees to grab coffee with him, which he's thrilled about… except for the coffee part. He doesn't like the taste.
    • While there, they chat about zines, and she tells him to buy Factsheet 5 so they can review his zine and more people can read it. What's more, there're tips in there about printing zines for cheap.
    • Marisol has an opinion about everything, especially lying—she can't stand when people lie to her, and she even makes John swear not to ever tell her a lie.
    • He does, but he notices the irony: John already lied by telling her his name is Giovanni for real.
    • Marisol jokes around with him and calls him Gio for short. She even knows that he gets his title for his zine from Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger.
    • They agree to meet up on Saturday in the same spot to talk about zines.
  • Chapter 3

    • At his mom's pad, John sits in his room reading Marisol's recommendation (John Berryman, if you must know), when his mom calls out to him to come downstairs.
    • She saw Brian walking home and gave him a ride; he's waiting anxiously when John comes downstairs.
    • Where'd he go after school? They were supposed to meet up to see the Drama Club's list of who'll be in the play.
    • Oops… John forgot. (And, you know, he doesn't care anyway.)
    • Just then, John's mom interjects that they can have some cheese and crackers, and Brian feels a little uncomfortable about what to call her. Does he say Galardi or Van Esterhausen or what?
    • She tells him to just call her Anne, noting that they aren't kids anymore. For some reason, this bugs John, though he's not sure why.
    • Anne goes upstairs to get changed, which gives Brian the chance to dish: He got a part in the play—he'll be the butler and he even has four lines. For some reason, he's ecstatic.
    • John doesn't share his enthusiasm, but he tries to feign interest and asks about Violet.
    • This only annoys Brian, though, perhaps because it's a sore point. Violet's in the musical and landed the main part (Maria), but a tall singing macho dude named Vincent got the male lead (Captain Von Trapp). So now Brian's doomed.
    • Brian tries to rally by inviting himself to Boston this weekend with John to cruise some new chicks. The only problem is that John's planning on meeting up with Marisol this weekend, and he'd rather not have Brian crash.
    • John lies and says he has plans with his dad, but, you know, maybe next time.
    • On Friday at their usual pizza joint, John's dad plays around with his food before asking John about his mom—he heard through the grapevine that Anne is getting remarried, and he wants to know if it's true.
    • Sure is, John responds, although he's not sure why his dad would even care since dude left them. John asks, getting more annoyed by the second.
    • His dad motions to the waiter and gets their food to go, not wanting to risk the public humiliation.
    • They don't talk all the way home, until John's dad announces he's going out… again.
  • Chapter 4

    • Even though John's dad usually sleeps in on Saturday mornings, John doesn't want to risk a run-in with the guy after their fight last night, so he slips out early to avoid him.
    • John heads over to where he'll meet Marisol in a couple hours, and reads her latest zine while he waits.
    • His favorite piece in it is called "Escape" and talks about when she came out to her parents. Her mom was super supportive, signing up for the Gay Pride parade and learning all there is to know about homosexuality before the weekend was up. Her dad? Not so much. He never mentions it or anything, but Marisol can tell how upset he is.
    • Marisol's appreciative of the support, but she wishes she could escape from her mom; she needs to figure herself out on her own.
    • John imagines what it would be like to come out to his parents. Not that they ever care about anything he does anyway.
    • He writes his own piece about escaping, but this time, it's more literal: He imagines escaping from his parents, and wonders how long it would take them to notice he was gone.
    • It turns out writing about how little your parents care about you is depressing, so John stops and starts reading another zine instead.
    • This one's from someone named Diana Tree, and called No Regrets. Her mom died when she was younger and she writes about how she feels now. She uses a lot of run-on sentences, all jumbled together—John's never seen anything like it, and he's intrigued.
    • It's already time to meet Marisol, so John stops reading and heads over to the meeting place. When he gets there, he's surprised to find a guy talking to her.
    • Marisol introduces him as Birdie, her trusted gay consultant. She wants to figure out if John is gay, but Birdie assures them that the guy isn't. He could tell right away.
    • John doesn't appreciate a complete stranger weighing in on his love life, especially since he tries to block himself off from all human emotion.
    • What's up with you, man? Birdie asks. Except he drops an f-bomb in there, which really grates on Marisol. She can't stand the word and think no one should ever use it because it doesn't say anything about love, sex, or anything.
    • Yeesh, John thinks, but he promises not to use it (at least in front of Marisol).
    • As they walk along, they run into Marisol's mom, Helen, who's out and about shopping, and just wanted to say hi—or so she says. Marisol knows she's really checking up on her daughter to see who Gio is.
    • When Helen leaves, Marisol gets annoyed that she came in the first place. Sometimes she needs more room to breathe and be herself.
    • The conversation turns back to whether or not John is gay. He doesn't get what the big deal is either way, but Marisol stops him and says if he doesn't find out, how can he expect someone else to?
    • Hmm… that would require someone else bothering to get to know him, John thinks.
  • Chapter 5

    • At school, John asks Brian if he's heading home, but Brian has rehearsal first.
    • He's excited, too, because he met a girl, a freshman named Emily who's playing a nun.
    • John leaves Brian—still over the moon about his new crush—and heads home. There, his mom tells him that she wants him to have dinner with Al and her that night so they can talk about what will happen after the wedding.
    • Already, John's annoyed. He doesn't want to move anywhere, and he doesn't think he should have to.
    • He storms off to his room, where he calls Marisol. She's going to a gifted and talented awards dinner that night with her parents. It's for all the seniors who are G&T as she puts it; basically, it's just an excuse for her parents to show off.
    • John can't believe she's a senior. He's just a junior and she's graduating. Where will she go? Marisol can't wait to go to college, hopefully Stanford, so she can escape.
    • He asks her if he can read her a piece for his zine that he just wrote, about escaping from his parents. She says sure.
    • He tries to make it funny, but it doesn't come off that way.
    • Marisol tells him that he shouldn't worry about what's funny or not; he should write the truth. That's more important anyway.
    • John's not sure he wants to write the truth—he's the funny guy. Either way, Marisol has to run. Before she goes, she says she's trying to figure out who she is when her parents are breathing down her neck.
    • At the dinner table, John suffers through a conversation with Al. It's not that the guy's awful; it's just that John doesn't want to play nice with his mom's fiancé.
    • He writes down what happened for the zine, since he thinks it will make a nice piece. The long and the short of it is that his mom plans on moving in with Al and his mom in their big house, about thirty minutes away. They agree John should come with them.
    • Wait, what? He doesn't want to move away during his senior year of high school. How could they do this to him? It's so unfair. Besides, this is his home. He doesn't want to leave it—not now; not ever.
    • He leaves out the part where his mom came to his room afterward. She says she has to think of herself and this is what's best for her; plus, he's almost grown and out of the house anyway.
    • When he asks her if she has any pride, she doesn't answer. She looks like she wants to slap John in the face, but doesn't.
    • That would require actually touching her son, which she never does. She hasn't touched him—at all—since his dad left.
    • John wants to cry, but he doesn't. In fact, he's not sure he even remembers how.
  • Chapter 6

    • That Friday, when John's dad comes to pick him up for the weekend, he parks the car and comes into the house. This is highly unusual. After all, John and his dad have the honk once system down to a tee.
    • Apparently John's dad wants to congratulate Anne on her engagement. And that's not where the weirdness ends either.
    • In the car, his dad announces that they should get Chinese takeout instead of their usual pizza that night. Um, okay.
    • Clearly, his dad wants to have some big talk. Yep, John was right. His dad starts talking about the divorce, and says John is old enough to understand now that he had no choice.
    • After all, the community is so small-minded, what with all the shrub-trimming, little league games, and family activities—he just didn't fit in there.
    • What is the point of this talk? John starts to feel like his dad is just saying he didn't want to raise a kid, which he doesn't need a talk to figure out. Abandoning him when he was ten sent that message loud and clear.
    • John flips out. He tells his dad he'll never be old enough to get running away from your own child. Ever.
    • Okay, okay, this talk didn't exactly go as planned, John's dad admits… and then he leaves again.
    • When John meets up with Marisol, he brings along a piece for her to read. She takes a long time reading, digesting each line of it.
    • After reading it through three times, she announces she's found what she calls the moment of truth. It declares he doesn't want anything to change right now. This line alone makes the piece worth reading.
    • John hates the way that makes him feel. He doesn't want to be vulnerable with her—or anyone else for that matter.
    • Why else write? Marisol asks—you should make your readers feel what you are going through.
    • The subject switches to her writing. She's been trying to write about something for a while now, but it's too personal.
    • Wait a minute… isn't that the point? John's confused why he has to be more personal, but she can't write about something without revealing too much of herself.
    • Marisol gives him the short version: She started hanging out with this gay crowd a while back. Everything was great, especially when she got to know Kelly a little better.
    • She fell head-over-heels for Kelly faster than you can say romantic comedy, and they started hanging out all the time and going out on dates.
    • One day, they're sitting together, when Kelly turns to Marisol and says she doesn't think she is actually gay. Whoops.
    • John feels for Marisol. He can see how much the whole experience upset her, plus he gets how hurtful that would be.
    • He writes a poem about being as reliable as the trees; he guesses it's really about his dad leaving. He doesn't read the poem to Marisol because he decides he can't trust her. After all, she never lies.
  • Chapter 7

    • John meets up with Brian at the rehearsal for The Sound of Music. He's not all that into musicals, but he promised his friend, and he's got to meet Emily someday.
    • As the group is singing about following your dreams, John thinks about the lines for a moment.
    • Then, Brian brings over Emily and introduces her. She's a little shy, but excited for the play.
    • Emily invites John to come see the play that weekend. Since Marisol is busy hanging out with Birdie on Saturday, he doesn't see any reason to trek into Boston—it's not like his dad will miss him.
    • Perfect. Emily says he can come on Friday and then hang out with them afterward.
    • Brian offers to drive Emily home, really just as a ploy to show off the fact that he has a car to her freshmen friends.
    • In the car, she asks John who he's taking to prom. To be honest, he hadn't planned on asking anyone, since he wasn't even planning on going himself.
    • Emily can't believe it. She's more excited for prom than anything else, especially since she's a freshman and none of her friends are going.
    • Happy to get home, John brushes off the idea of prom. Besides, his mind is preoccupied with the fact that his mom is exercising on her stationary bike, which she hasn't used since his dad left.
    • She's not even embarrassed by it, and explains that she has to get in shape for the wedding—people will be looking at her.
    • John tells his mom that he's not going to his dad's this weekend so he can see Brian in the play. She's surprised he wouldn't want to go hang out with his dad.
    • At first, she seems a little flustered, but then she says it's no problem. John figures she has Al over on weekends and that they like a little privacy.
    • As she gets the chili out of the freezer for dinner, Anne asks John to grab the butter for the cornbread. He accidentally drops it and she says she'll clean it up.
    • Really, though, John knows she wants him out of the kitchen—being together in that small space means they might unintentionally bump each other, and his mom couldn't have that.
    • In his room, John reads the next issue of No Regrets and learns about Diana's positive attitude. She explains the title comes from the idea that she always wants to be looking at the future and hoping, not looking at the past and regretting.
    • John thinks that's an interesting idea, especially from someone whose mom died, so he decides to write her a letter about his life.
    • In it, he tells her about how his dad left and his mom got depressed. He admits it seems like his life isn't as bad as hers, but it still stinks. How can he not get down so much?
    • Then he tells her about his zine and Marisol's and encourages her to check them out.
    • He signs it with his real name. Why not? It's not like he'll ever meet the girl.
  • Chapter 8

    • John ends up seeing The Sound of Music on Friday and Saturday since there's nothing else to do in Darlington, and he'd rather not hang out at home and run the risk of seeing Al there with his mom.
    • On Friday, the topic of girlfriends and prom comes up again. John fibs and tells Emily and Brian that he already has a girlfriend in the city that he's been seeing for a while now on weekends.
    • Brian's hurt that John didn't tell him sooner, but Emily is really curious about her and asks John why he doesn't just bring her to prom.
    • Um… well… John hesitates, knowing Marisol wouldn't be caught dead at prom. He leaves out the part where Marisol's a lesbian and wouldn't want to go with a guy.
    • He ends up saying it's not really her thing, but that upsets Emily more. What's wrong with prom?
    • Brian makes John promise he'll at least ask Marisol if she'll go with him.
    • On Saturday, when John sees Marisol, he knows he can't actually ask her. She, however, invites him to an Ani DiFranco concert at the Orpheum; he tags along.
    • He's not familiar with her music, but Marisol loves it, so he figures she can't be too bad.
    • Before the concert, Marisol shows John the review of Bananafish in Factsheet 5. And guess what? It's really good and claims his writing is touching and hilarious. Yay, right?
    • Except John doesn't like this. He'll take hilarious, but he doesn't want to be touching. Marisol's not sure what the big deal is, though—the review is really good.
    • They grab Thai food and before he even knows what he's doing, John invites Marisol to the prom.
    • She's surprised, to say the least. She isn't the prom type, and she thought he knew that.
    • John does know that. He's just asking her as friends. He doesn't care anyway. Forget he ever mentioned it.
    • They go to the concert and John really enjoys the music, especially all the cool lyrics.
  • Chapter 9

    • After the concert, Marisol suddenly realizes it's 12:30AM. How is she going to get home to Cambridge since the last Red Line train has already left?
    • Guess she'll just have to walk. John's not about to let her walk alone at this time of night, though, so instead he invites her to stay at his dad's place, saying he can sleep on the floor and she can take his bed.
    • Marisol's reluctant at first, but John does have a point about walking home.
    • She agrees and calls her parents to keep them in the loop. They're not-so-secretly thrilled that their lesbian daughter is staying with a guy.
    • They take turns showering the concert grime off, and John hooks Marisol up with a pair of his dad's pajamas to sleep in.
    • When Marisol notices that they're silk, John counters with dissing his dad for trying to act young and cool when he's old and boring.
    • Marisol asks John why he doesn't tell his dad this stuff, and John's not sure—basically, though, the guy's not the easiest to talk to.
    • Marisol suggests John write to him, then. She does it with her birth mom all the time. She's not sure who the lady is, or if she'll ever meet her, but she writes down what she wishes she could tell her.
    • It's really more for herself than anyone else. In fact, she has some letters in her backpack right now.
    • Jokingly, John reaches for the bag. Marisol misunderstands and thinks he's going to read them, so she slaps him on the head.
    • John's shocked and tells her to relax—he was just kidding around—but Marisol doesn't think it's funny, though she realizes she overreacted. They both say sorry and call it a night.
    • A couple minutes later, Marisol offers to read one of the letters to John. He just wants to go to sleep at this point, but he agrees.
    • In the letter, Marisol explains to her mom that she blames her more than her dad. It might not be fair, but that's the way it is.
    • She also blames her mom for the fact that she can't trust anybody, even Birdie and John sometimes. John didn't sign up to be her BFF, and she worries he'll leave, too.
    • John feels a bunch of different emotions in hearing the letter, but he's not sure what to make of them.
    • He thanks Marisol for reading it to him, and then asks where the sign up sheet is—you know, because he'd love to be her bestie.
    • They drift off to sleep and are woken up at 10:00AM by his dad announcing hot coffee and croissants. John comes out of his room to find his dad waiting, all smiles. In fact, he's almost giddy.
    • He saw the lady jeans in the bathroom and figured John had a girl stay the night. John can tell his dad is proud and excited about the prospect of his son being a ladies man.
    • Marisol goes to the kitchen and introduces herself. She doesn't lie, but she doesn't blurt out that she's gay either—she can tell John's dad thinks they're an item.
    • Finally, John tells his dad to quit it. Marisol isn't interested in him… or any other guy for that matter. His dad is annoyed. Why would John let him make a fool of himself?
    • As Marisol's leaving, she tells John that it's good he told the truth to his dad. Oh, and maybe going to prom wouldn't be the worst idea in the world; she can look for secondhand dresses that are her style.
    • John's ecstatic. He knows it'll be a night to remember.
  • Chapter 10

    • When John sees Brian and Emily next, he breaks the news: Marisol said yes. To prom it is.
    • Emily jumps up and down and squeals with delight, Brian gives John a pat on the back, and even John is excited—though he doesn't admit it to them.
    • They start discussing the details, and Emily suggests they get a limo. John doesn't like the idea, but Brian's into it, so he decides to take a couple shifts waiting tables to save up with the dough.
    • Emily asks John what color dress Marisol will wear, and is horrified when he says black.
    • John gets a letter from Diana in the mail. She's seen his zine and Marisol's and likes them both. She invites them to a zine get together on Cape Cod—they're staying in a friend's resort and will talk about writing, reading, and all that jazz.
    • Diana also mentions that she connects to John's sense of writing; it's all about finding magic words.
    • John's thrilled about the letter and the invite, and calls Marisol right away to tell her. She's less thrilled. She doesn't really care about the Cape Cod thing and worries they're spending too much time together with prom and that.
    • Then she has to dash to get homework done.
    • John asks his mom what's for dinner, but she's going out with Al. She'd invite him and all, but she knows he wouldn't want to come anyway.
    • Anne suggests John goes out with Brian. John knows Brian will be hanging out with Emily, so it's no use asking.
    • After his mom leaves, he sits down and writes her a letter like Marisol suggested. In it, he tells her that he feels abandoned by her. He thought when his dad left that he at least had her. Now, he has neither.
    • The final straw? She can't stand to touch him—ever—and the way she treats him makes him feel like a diseased person.
    • Then he writes a letter to his dad. This one is shorter and crueler. He says he doesn't even know what to say to his dad since he knows his dad doesn't care about him—he's invisible to his dad unless he brings a girl home.
  • Chapter 11

    • On the day of prom, Brian and John hang out and get ready together. John notices a letter from Marisol in a stack of mail, and wonders what it's about.
    • Brian's really excited for prom, and it suddenly dawns on John that he's jealous: He wishes he were taking a girl that he had a shot with.
    • John finally opens the letter from Marisol and inside is a poem called "You're Not Listening." It's about someone—you guessed it—not listening to how someone else feels. Something tells John this isn't random, but he's not sure what it means either.
    • When Marisol shows up for the prom, she's breathtaking. She's in all black of course, and she looks like Audrey Hepburn.
    • John's mom meets Marisol and wishes she had film to take a picture of them. Then, she tells John to put his boutonniere on, though of course she can't fasten it for him, because that would require touching him.
    • In the car, John explains to Marisol that his mom hasn't touched him—at all—since his dad left. He gets annoyed about it, and she tells him to write it down to tell his mom.
    • When they pull up to Emily's house, Brian and Emily are posing for pictures. Marisol asks John if they know about her (ahem, that she's a lesbian), and he clams up. Not exactly…
    • Marisol flips out. How could he lie to them? She doesn't want to ruin their prom, so she'll still go, but she won't lie either.
    • John introduces her to Brian and Emily, and then the couples proceed to take a million pictures. Emily's mom is crying; everyone's giddy… everyone, that is, except John, who is worried about Marisol blurting out the truth (she's a lesbian) and Marisol, who just figured out John's name isn't really Gio. Uh-oh.
  • Chapter 12

    • Marisol doesn't eat much at dinner, and when everyone starts dancing, she doesn't feel like doing that either. Surprise, surprise.
    • John secretly likes that everyone stares at Marisol. After all, nearly all the girls are dressed in the same skanky outfits, but Marisol looks like a vintage movie star.
    • Marisol asks John what his letter to his mom said. He admits it was pretty harsh, but he means it: He hates how she acted after his dad left.
    • Then she brings up the poem. She didn't send it to hurt him, but she wants him to know how she feels.
    • John doesn't get it. The poem says she's leaving him. What does that mean?
    • She's afraid he won't understand. Neither of them could let anyone in before, and now they're thick as thieves.
    • To distract them, Marisol agrees to a dance. She doesn't want to, but she figures it's better than fighting.
    • They start dancing, and John kisses her head and then tries to work his way down to her lips. She pulls away—you know, on account of being a lesbian, which John well knows.
    • They're starting to cause a scene, and Brian asks what's up, so Marisol fesses up that she's a lesbian and John knows it but won't believe it. She runs off.
    • John follows her and asks if they can talk. He doesn't get why she's so upset. She looks so beautiful and wore a dress, and he just thought… maybe she was available.
    • Marisol can't believe it. Available for what? She's not into guys. Why can't he get that? She says she can't believe she thought they were friends.
    • John drops the f-bomb at her, knowing it will upset her—she hates that word—and says he knows they have something special. Why can't she just admit it?
    • Marisol agrees they have a connection, and that's what's so confusing about the whole thing. But they can't keep pretending they're something they're not: She's a lesbian, and he's in love with her.
    • John walks her to her car and doesn't say another word.
  • Chapter 13

    • The next morning, Brian stops by after a night of dancing and happiness. He'd been out all night with Emily.
    • When John got home last night, his mom asked why he was home so soon. She tells him not to worry; people fight, but it'll be better in the morning.
    • John lamented the fact that his mom only offers pep talks that can be found on the back of a cereal box and then went to bed.
    • He tells Brian that he tried to kiss Marisol but it didn't work out like he'd planned. Brian doesn't get why John lied about Marisol in the first place, but John explains it's because he's always with Emily now; they never have time to talk anymore.
    • They make breakfast and Brian asks John how he really feels about Marisol. It's true what she said: He does love her. It's not like he planned it this way, though, it just happened.
    • Brian tells John all about his evening, including making out with Emily in the back of the limo and trying vodka at the prom after-party.
    • John's mom wakes up and comes downstairs for coffee. She's surprised to see Brian there so early, but then she remembers about prom.
    • She says John should take a local girl next time because city folk are too high and mighty—it's a clear dig at John's dad, and he doesn't miss it.
    • In fact, he tells her that Dad was a selfish bastard and her mistake, not his. Brian feels uncomfortable and takes off.
    • John asks his mom if she had a fun evening with Al. She did, and the two of them talked a lot about the living arrangements after the wedding.
    • They've decided that John and his mom will move in with Al. John is peeved by this news. He doesn't want to move away from his home in his final year of school.
    • She tells him that he's always accusing his dad of being selfish, but he's inherited more than his dad's good looks.
    • So there's his answer: That's why she never touches him; he reminds her too much of his dad.
    • Just to annoy his mom, he asks for the jar of honey. She hands it to him, but he accidentally-on-purpose touches her hand in the process. The honey jar drops and smashes.
    • She shivers and tells him to get out so she can clean up the mess. Again, he knows she just wants him to get away from her.
    • The phone rings and it's Marisol. John gets a spark of hope, but when he talks to her, that fades.
    • She told Birdie what happened at prom, and he thinks it's best if they go to the zine conference that Diana invited them to. There are loads of gay people there, and it could be good for John to see her in that light.
    • John's not really sure what that means, but he agrees to go, so long as it's just the two of them.
  • Chapter 14

    • On Friday, John tells his mom that he's taking the train to see his dad for the weekend. Really, though, he's meeting Marisol.
    • He knows he could have told his mom where he was going, but he doesn't want to—he wants to pretend he's running away with Marisol forever.
    • His mom's worried about Al. She wants to know if John likes him and trusts him, but honestly, John just doesn't give the guy all that much thought.
    • He tells his mom to stop letting his dad affect her relationship—she's only worried because Dad turned out to be a liar.
    • John's mom admits he's right and wonders how her son got to be so smart when she wasn't looking. John doesn't mention that she's never really looking at him.
    • He leaves the letter he wrote to her and mails the other one to his dad. At first he wasn't going to, but now he doesn't care; he wants them to know how he feels.
    • John makes it to the bus barely before it leaves. He meets up with Marisol and tells her about the letters. She's shocked.
    • Didn't he admit the letters were mean? Won't they be upset when they find them? John's confused. This whole time, she's been the one advocating for the truth, and now he finally tells it and she's annoyed? This doesn't make any sense.
    • They get to the house and meet up with Diana. She shows them where to put their stuff and explains the weekend.
    • Bill has a big day for everyone planned tomorrow, but for tonight, everyone's just hanging out or going out.
    • There are sandwiches and snacks if they want, but if not, they're welcome to come out dancing with everyone.
    • Marisol thinks that's a great idea.
  • Chapter 15

    • They all head out to a bar named Butterfields and meet up with some of the other people at the zine conference: Sarah, B.J., June, and a few others.
    • Marisol seems particularly interested in June; they start talking about writing and before long they're flirting and dancing together.
    • John's a little upset. He wishes he didn't have to see Marisol interested in someone else.
    • He starts talking to Diana. She knows Marisol is gay, but she also thought something was going on between the two of them. Nope, they're just friends.
    • He decides he's going to call it a night, so he goes over to tell Marisol. In reality, he just wants to pull her away from dancing with June, but he doesn't admit that.
    • Marisol doesn't care much if he leaves, and she even says she's going to bunk with June tonight. Message received.
    • John leaves and Diana goes with him. They talk about their lives as they stroll along together.
    • She tells him about her musician dad trying to make it before her mom died. By this point, Diana's picked up on the fact that he wants to be more than just friends with Marisol, so she tells him about a gay guy she was friends with.
    • They got really close and she started to like him, but he was into guys. She would get upset when he would flirt with another guy in front of her, because she'd wonder if he could ever feel that way about her. Eventually, they stopped hanging out.
    • John knows Diana is just trying to help, but he's getting sick of people telling him he can't feel what he already does for Marisol. He wishes everyone would just butt out.
    • He tells Diana he just wants to go to bed, and after she leaves, he writes a poem.
    • The next morning, he wakes up to find Bill in the kitchen making breakfast. After they wake everyone up, they all talk about their writing and how to make zines on the computer. Then they each go around sharing something they've written.
    • Marisol reads her "Escape" piece because June wants her to. Then John reads the poem he read last night, entitled "I'm Not Lying."
    • It's about Marisol letting him in, and him learning to trust her. He wasn't lying about who he was with her, and he never wants to.
    • After everyone's done reading, Bill yells out to Marisol that she has a phone call.
    • John gets up to see if she's okay, but a guy stops him. She's part of the lesbian contingent, so she probably doesn't want to talk to you.
  • Chapter 16

    • John catches up with Marisol and asks her what's wrong. Birdie called to let her know her mom is worried sick. She didn't tell her parents where she was going, and they freaked out when she didn't come home.
    • Her mom went through her room and found John's number, too, so she called his parents and now everyone's concerned together. Yikes.
    • Marisol says she'll call her mom in the morning before she leaves. Morning? Aren't they leaving in the afternoon?
    • This is awkward. Marisol's decided to go to New York with her new lesbian friends. She doesn't want to hurt John, but she needs to do this.
    • He doesn't get it. Can't she hang out with them another time? Why doesn't she find some new friends to meet up with at Stanford?
    • She tries to explain: She's at escape velocity right now, and she wants to go with them.
    • Later, everyone eats hot dogs and veggie burgers on the beach and Diana sings songs. She has a beautiful voice, John notices.
    • Everyone cheers for her songs. Next up? "Hard Love" by Bob Franke.
    • Coincidence? We think not. The song is about how hard it is to turn away from someone you love, and how love can heal you sometimes.
    • John decides to call his mom and let her know where they are; he feels badly for making her worry.
    • When she picks up the phone, he can hear how relieved she is—she was so worried about him.
    • He tells her he's at the conference and apologizes for the letter, saying he doesn't hate her.
    • She says she knows she's made a bunch of mistakes. She just thought he had his dad, but she guesses that was wrong.
    • Also, she and Al talked about it, and maybe it's not the best idea to move him right now, so they don't have to move in with Al after the wedding.
    • Al jumps on the phone and says his friend Brian has been around all morning helping figure out where John is. He should hang on to a buddy like that. Plus, his dad is pretty ticked off.
    • John figured he would be. He reassures them that he'll be home tomorrow.
    • Diana comes up and asks him if he's okay. He tells her she was right—he is in love with Marisol even though he knows he doesn't have a shot.
    • She tells him it's okay and makes him promise to write her when he gets home.
  • Chapter 17

    • The next morning, John gets up early so he can catch Marisol before she leaves.
    • The two of them break away from the crowd to talk privately, and he tells her he didn't mean for this to happen and he's sorry.
    • She gets it—he can't help his feelings—it's just that he's known from the beginning.
    • Marisol wants him to know that he means a lot to her.
    • She also wants him to know that she was excited to go to prom and wear a dress for once. She can't explain it, and she doesn't want him to get the wrong idea, but she was happy to be asked.
    • He tells her he's going to miss her. She says the same thing back, and then says that she loves him as much as she can.
    • After she leaves, John gets ready to meet up with everyone else. He's a little nervous and anxious, but he's ready.