Study Guide

Hard Love Exploration

By Ellen Wittlinger

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No one exactly goes into the final frontier here, but there's plenty of exploring to be done in Hard Love. John and Marisol are exploring who they want to become by testing out different versions of themselves, and in the end, Marisol flits off to New York to escape her parents and experience something different. Even the name of her zine—Escape Velocity—hints at the idea of exploring the world and your place in it. Ultimately, almost all of the characters do a little soul-searching at some point, and test the waters to figure out what the deal with life is. Well, everyone except John's dad, that is.

Questions About Exploration

  1. Why does Marisol name her zine Escape Velocity? How does the title sum up her view on life? Does she accomplish escape velocity?
  2. What are John's parents exploring? How does this change his outlook on life?
  3. What does John learn from exploring different situations, zines, and people? Does he change in the end?

Chew on This

John explores a life with friends and fun, but only ends up getting hurt, so all told, Hard Love is a cautionary tale about exploration.

Through Marisol's search for her world, she alienates the people who love her the most: her parents and John.

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