Reviewed by Lynn Crow for TeensReadToo.com
Since her then-boyfriend announced he was gay several months back, things have finally started to settle down in Belle's life. Her relationship with Tom is going strong, her best friend Em's all lovey-dovey with her boyfriend, and even Belle's mom has found a man she adores. The classmate who attacked Belle last year has been transferred to another school, and the freedom of summer is fast approaching. Still, Belle can't help worrying that life can't possibly be as good as it seems. Tom hasn't made the move to go all the way yet, and she can't stop fretting that there's something wrong that she isn't seeing.
Unfortunately for Belle, it turns out she's right--but it's not something with Tom. First, to Belle's dismay, her seizures start happening with no apparent trigger. Then Em makes a life-changing discovery and swears Belle to secrecy. Belle sees her dreams of an easy transition to university with friends and boyfriends falling apart. As she struggles to figure out what's true, and to deal with her growing uncertainty, she is forced to question the things everyone takes for granted. Why do difficult things happen to people she's sure are "good?" Is the boy who attacked her really all bad, or is it okay for her to feel sympathy for him when she hears his father hitting him? What's the real story behind the snarky remarks and angry accusations of her long-time nemesis, Mimi? And most importantly, can Belle be "popular," loving, and "good," and stay true to herself all at the same time?
LOVE (AND OTHER USES FOR DUCT TAPE) has the same charm and emotionally wrenching honesty as its prequel, TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (EX) BOYFRIEND. Belle is an engaging narrator, struggling to do the right thing even when she knows not everyone agrees on what that "right" thing is. Her reactions to the changing circumstances around her are believable, and readers will eagerly follow her every step of the way. The other characters, both teens and adults, are equally well-drawn, in many shades of gray, never black and white. The book raises many hot topic issues, from teen sex and pregnancy to gay rights, but it keeps them personal and real, without any preaching or judgments. Ultimately, this is a story about Belle defining who she is and who she wants to be. It's a journey every teen must take, and this novel should be equally universal in its appeal.