“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)
We use “love” for so many reasons, and I really enjoyed how Vikki VanSickle explores the impact that this loaded four-letter word has in our daily lives. Have you ever thought about how often we use the word “love”?
I love coffee … I can’t live without it.
I love Sherlock and Doctor Who … It makes my brain hurt, but in a good way.
Hahaha … I love the way you think!
Can I borrow your car, Sis? I’ll love you forever!
I love you, Mom.
In Love Is a Four-Letter Word, we pick up almost from where we leave off in the first novel. Clarissa and Benji are still in the throes of battling seventh grade, but a few wrenches have been thrown into their plans. For one thing, auditions for a production of The Wizard of Oz yield unexpected results, and the once steady and predictable relationship between the two friends is put to the test. For another, there are two new additions to their little group in the form of Mattie and Michael.
I didn’t mention it in my review of Words that Start with B, but I think VanSickle created such a lovely and enviable friendship between Clarissa and Benjamin. Benji is so sensitive and thoughtful. He’s always honest with Clarissa, but he knows how to read her and understand her needs without being told. Clarissa, on the other hand, is protective and understanding of Benji’s idiosyncrasies and how his life at home influences the mask he wears at school. Both are fiercely loyal to one another, neither willing to hurt the other except in extreme cases where an ugly truth must be faced. They are both so secure in their friendship that they can take each other for granted in the best way possible. I wish I had had a Clarissa or Benji when I was growing up. VanSickle’s development of their friendship is nothing short of admirable.
I also love the way Mattie’s character develops throughout this story. I’ll be honest … I find her a little annoying when she is first introduced, even when she’s helping Clarissa out on something or other. It’s great that Clarissa does recognize the impact that Mattie has on their lives, actually admitting—though a little begrudgingly—that she has become one of their group. Mattie is a good person and friend, and of all the characters in the story, I think I identify with her the most. I, like she, can be overbearing and irritating, despite having the best of intentions. It’s definitely not easy to always look beyond a person’s perfectionism and/or prickliness to appreciate the good he/she also has to offer, which is an aspect of Mattie’s character that resonates with me a lot. Mattie is also good for Clarissa because although Benji is a great BFF, there is just something different about having a girl BFF to talk to about certain topics. In many ways, Mattie mirrors as well as complements Clarissa’s life. Through her relationship with her mother, sense of justice, desire to shine, willingness to try new things, speak confidently, and optimistic outlook, Mattie really brings out the best in Clarissa’s character, and as a fan of Clarissa, I really enjoy seeing her develop. VanSickle is so good at lending voices to the oft-misunderstood but very valuable characters in our lives!
Perhaps you’re wondering how Michael fits into a novel with the word “love” in it? Well, VanSickle does a great job depicting the ups and downs of love in elementary school. She shows how love is hard to define and ALWAYS emotional. In short, VanSickle gives us the wonderful and crazy world of tweenage love.
My class loved this second book, which totally did not fall under the curse that many sequels and middle-of-trilogies do. VanSickle’s writing, as always, is smart and funny and sarcastic – appealing to those sardonic kindred spirits. And we really loved the deliciously awkward moments that were scattered throughout. (Wait ‘til you get to the ice cream parlour scene!) If I didn’t already enjoy VanSickle’s writing, this novel would have done it for me. We couldn’t wait to dive into Days that End in Y as soon as we were done with this one!
Have you read the second installment of Clarissa and Benji’s adventures? What was your reaction?