Lovefool 06.10.13 | Completely Nutty

You’d have to be crazy to try to lie to your entire school, but when  Sadie Wildhack just wants to come out of her shell in a new town, is making up a peanut allergy really that, well, nuts? It’s high school romance gone awry in Peanut from Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe.

 

Oh, sweet nerdlings, the worst thing about picking up and moving house is the little things—say, the little bags of comics from your editor—that get lost in the shuffle. So you move and you see Team Squishykins fairly early off the bat because, hello, Squishykins, and you get handed a bag of stuff that you’re supposed to read and write about and you pull the book that your editor gave you because you’re not stupid and you toss the rest in the back. Where it sits. For two months. And, in the meantime, you don’t end up reading Peanut because it’s sitting in the back of your car and then you eventually find it and you’re sad because you’ve missed two months with this glorious book.
 
Peanut is the story of Sadie Wildhack, a teenage girl who—spoiler!—doesn’t have a peanut allergy. Written by Ayun Halliday and illustrated in black and white with splashes of red by Paul Hoppe, it’s a simple tale of…well, high-schooler behavior gone wrong. Sadie may not have that peanut allergy, but what she does have is a mother who moves the two of them every few years and a desire to stand out in that weird high school world after a move to a place where everyone knows everyone and she doesn’t know anyone. So she creates a…well, a sort of trademark for herself. She buys herself a medical alert bracelet and fakes the rest. She makes friends, she meets a boy, she realizes her old friends were jerks, and she tries to get on with her life carrying on this sham.
 
Have you ever tried to live a lie like that? I haven’t. I mean, I can barely keep track of my actual life. But Sadie commits to it. She slips into the skin of Sadie Wildhack, Girl At Death’s Door, and sells it fairly well. There’s a couple close calls with the school nurse and she has to work at keeping her home life and school life separated, but she manages it. Her strange-but-fantastic boyfriend, Zoo, thinks her mother hates Asian people and her mother thinks Zoo is cripplingly shy, but the two don’t meet and Sadie’s ruse goes unchecked for a while.
 
And that’s the thing about lies. They go along until they don’t and then you’ve got a mess on your hands. Which may be the most obvious thing I’ve ever said, but think about this one: Sadie is lying to an entire school, from the staff down, and she starts on her first day. She has friends, she has a sweet Luddite boyfriend who leaves origami notes on her doorstep, she’s blended but there’s this hint of otherness about her, a dash of mystery and danger. She’s based herself on this ruse and, in doing so, she’s made herself the specialest snowflake without really trying. Zoo calls her Peanut. It’s kind of a thing. And it goes down in a spectacular fashion.
 
I wish I could spoil the dickens out of it without feeling bad. When it all comes out, as it would, does Zoo stay or does he go? Is Sadie special enough on her own, just Sadie, to keep the life she’s carved out for herself? Does the entire school think she’s a complete psycho or what? Does Zoo finally get a friggin’ cell phone so he can just text like normal people?
 
More interestingly, Peanut was thought-provoking on a personal level. What would we do if we were in Zoo’s position? It’s a big lie Sadie’s told but it, ultimately, an allergy doesn’t make her who she is, right? A big, huge lie, however, that she maintains for months may color things a little differently. When you fall in love with someone, you fall in love with their quirks and adopt their cats, yes, but what if one of those quirks was being an insecure liar? Would you be able to see past the lie to the insecure part or would you get tangled up in the deception?
 
I’d like to think I could make it past but I don’t know… When I was younger, I always loved the idea that “we all invent ourselves” (thank you, Michael Stipe) but I never took it quite that far. And, I won’t lie, with my life in motion, I’ve definitely gotten a few chances to decide who I am again. For example, Omaha Erin was personally responsible until it stuck, but when I swore that this would be the job where I acted 100% professional…well, not so much. In making the call to let go of that unreasonable expectation, I took the opposite path from Sadie. I started out a quiet picture of professionalism but quickly realized I couldn’t cover my flaws, namely my big, fat mouth, while Sadie burst onto the scene with a life-threatening characteristic and had to bloom behind all the fuss created by that and, when it all blew up in her face, had to try to keep the very real relationships she had managed to forge. So I can admit I don’t usually lunch alone, but you’ll just have to read the book to see if Sadie managed to keep herself in the game. | Erin Jameson
 
Click here for a preview of Peanut, courtesy of Random House!

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