Study Guide

Hard Love Chapter 1

By Ellen Wittlinger

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.