Love and Other Four-Letter Words by Carolyn Mackler


Rating: 5/5

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 16+

Favorite Quote: “That along with love comes other four-letter words. Like hate, obviously. And loss. And gain. And most importantly, grow.”

Sammie Davis, not the entertainer, used to have a good life. She considers herself an average girl, but she lived in a middle-class home with her mother, father, and her dog Moxie. Then, her life hit a rough patch. Her parents decide to go through a trial separation. Sammie soon finds herself whisked away to New York City in a cramped Manhattan apartment while her father is enjoying freedom in California. Not only has her whole life been shaken and she has started getting anxiety from the whole ordeal, she doesn’t like how she physically looks, she’s never had a boyfriend, and her gorgeous best friend uses her as a therapist. As Sammie’s summer drags on, she struggles to deal with the separation and dealing with her mother who is, for lack of a better word, irresponsible. This is the story about how Sammie learns to deal with this rocky patch in her life and how she comes to understand that along with love come other four-letter words: hate, loss, gain… and grow.

When I first stumbled across this book I was about 15. I found it at a local used bookstore and I bought it because I thought the title was pretty cool. Since I have the strangest system for choosing books, this book sat on my shelf for… well until yesterday. I was sure I was going to DNF this book before I even started it because I looked at it and thought the book was too young for me now. I pushed myself to start it though and I’m so glad I did. This book is a little like Judy Blume’s controversial book “Forever”. It’s a coming of age book that is honest about sex and growing up. While the main character does not have sex, it is discussed in passing between her and her friend Kitty, who is not a virgin anymore. The book also offers a very realistic take on how a teenage girl deals with the events like Sammie has to go through. A lot of times the response is to bottle up the emotions and explode later on. The author crafted beautiful characters and a beautiful story. You come to care for every character in the story, even the characters you will hate.

My only complaint about the book is that it was a fast read and the story leaves many unanswered questions… but the story is about life and in life we will always have unanswered questions. The book also may not be suitable for many younger audiences based on the content and based on parent’s differing opinions about what should be and shouldn’t be available to teenagers. I find the book to be a must-read for any teen and any adult (as the lessons taught in this book are ones we need to be reminded of time and time again throughout our life). However, if you’re a minor, then have your parents review this book before getting in trouble please. My recommended age was based off of my own personal experience of being gifted Forever at 16 years old.

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