Study Guide

Hard Love Summary

By Ellen Wittlinger

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.