Cover image from Goodreads
If you’re anything like me, you’re staring at the title above thinking what an odd name.
That was certainly my first thought when I picked this book off the library shelf, but it wasn’t long before I was thinking many other (not positive) things about it.
First of all, the blurb (found on Goodreads);
‘Miss Amelia Hayes, welcome to The Land of Dreams. I am the staff trainer. I will call you grasshopper and you will call me sensei and I will give you the good oil. Right? And just so you know, I’m open to all kinds of bribery.’
From the moment 15-year-old Amelia begins work on the checkout at Woolworths she is sunk, gone, lost…head-over-heels in love with Chris. Chris is the funny, charming, man-about-Woolies, but he’s 21, and the 6-year difference in their ages may as well be 100. Chris and Amelia talk about everything from Second Wave Feminism to Great Expectations and Alien, but will he ever look at her in the way she wants him to? And if he does, will it be everything she hopes?
You may also know the book by it’s original title Love and Other Perishable Items (which had to be changed due to copyright infringement). But I picked this book out with the title Good Oil, which I then found was actually Australian slang for something good and desired at that particular moment. Apparently I am bad at my own country’s slang.
I so wanted to love this book. It’s by an Australian author about an Australian girl who is my age! I was so ready to relate to this book and to Amelia and her problems. While I may not have a crush on anyone at my job, I hoped she would talk about the other issues that come with starting a job – customers who yell at you, being totally overwhelmed, not wanting to screw-up but not being confident enough to ask questions – but that was my problem with Amelia. She only talks about Chris. The whole novel, that’s pretty much all she discusses. I mean, the poor girl is obviously besotted, but she must have some other interests. I also found her incredibly whiny and I hated the fact that at the end of the book, she leaves Woolworths because Chris does.
Although, admittedly, my issues with Amelia were still fairly minor. She was a little whiny; that I can deal with. She made some bad decisions; so does everyone. She has an all encompassing crush; that bugged me the most, but again, I can deal.
My main issue was with Chris.
Ugh. Talk about a man-child.
First of all, he mentions alcohol in pretty much every. Single. Diary. Entry.
We get it. You’re a 21 year old. You’re probably going to drink rather than deal with your problems. But the amount you’re drinking is definitely a problem at this point. It’s beyond ridiculous.
Also, nothing says “responsible adult!” like buying a six-pack of beer to share with a 15 year old that technically you’re the superior of where you work.
Secondly, he acts as though he’s the perfect example of a feminist, discussing second-wave feminism with Amelia and pretending to be a responsible person because despite the fact that he’s totally attracted the 15 year old he works with, he doesn’t act on. Except then he does, because his ex called him and mentioned she was engaged, so he got drunk, kissed her on the bathroom floor and then turned her down with a rehearsed speech. Oh and let’s not forget the time she almost was raped (after no consent was given and she was drunk) and Chris proceeds to make an announcement about it across the entire store.
To add to the ‘Things Chris Did That Bugged Me’ list;
1) He does cocaine and then sleeps with a 16 year old. “It’s totally legal,” he says. “It’s totally not,” I say.
2) He has a list of “perfect women”, including Amelia if she was “just a few years older”. Surprise, surprise, the only one who wants anything to do with him is the 15 year old who doesn’t know any better.
3) He moves to Japan because he’s basically running away from all the stuff he screwed up in Australia.
4) He refers to his crush as the Kathy-virus. Because every healthy relationship starts with the other thinking of you as a disease.
I don’t know. I just felt that Chris really grated on my nerves with his angsty diary entries that were borderline pretentious. I also found it very hard to be sympathetic for him, because in my mind he abused the fact that Amelia was young and vulnerable and easy for him to manipulate. After a week of ignoring her and poking fun at her for an incident that she’s embarrassed about, when she stands up to him he dismisses her on the grounds of “aww cute, she can get angry”, takes her out for pizza and beer and she’s magically no longer mad at him. It frustrates me that he uses the fact that he’s older and well aware of her crush on him to take advantage of her.
I was thoroughly disappointed in this book. I was hoping for so much more, because usually I absolutely adore Australian YA Contemporaries. Unfortunately though, this book left me frustrated and grossed out by Chris.
I give it 1.5 stars.