“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, April 9, 2012

Love & Haight ▪ YA fiction

Available now    Henry Holt / Macmillan    Ages 14 and up
Even in the land of easy love, some things aren't so easy.
Story: It's about old love and new love and free love. And what happens when two girls spend two weeks in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury in 1971, and one of them is pregnant and wants to be unpregnant.  Seventeen-year-old Chloe and her best friend MJ head to San Francisco to ring in the New Year, circa 1971. But Chloe has an ulterior motive—and a secret. She's pregnant and has devised a plan not to be. In San Francisco's flower-power heyday, it was (just about) legal to end a pregnancy.

As soon as the girls cross the Golden Gate, the scheme starts to unravel amid the bellbottoms, love-beads, and bongs. Chloe's secrets escalate until she betrays everyone she cares about. Her best friend who has doubts about Chloe's plan. Her groovy aunt who offers the girls a place to crash. Her self-absorbed mother meditating back in Phoenix. And, especially, the boy she wishes she'd waited for. 
Story behind the story:  Author Susan Carlton tells us "LOVE & HAIGHT is set in the waning days of San Francisco’s hippie movement, started as a valentine to my hometown. I grew up in the city and its suburbs, although I was too young for the Summer of Love by a good decade. Still, as a teenager in the ’70s I spent many weekends with friends getting lost in Golden Gate Park or thumbing through albums at Tower Records. And I was raised in a politically active family with protests and petitions served up alongside tofu stew and clove tea. I drew on these memories—the serious and the not-so—for Love & Haight.

So place came to me first. As for the abortion storyline…well, I didn’t set out to write a book about abortion. I set out to write about seventeen-year-old Chloe, a girl who views life as a series of either/or choices (either a fox or a prude; either a hippie or a square). When Chloe finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand, she is resolute—she will find a way to get an abortion without telling anyone but her best friend, MJ.

As it turns out, abortion in 1971 isn’t as easy as Chloe thinks, especially when MJ starts voicing her opposition. Chloe’s decision is complicated by the convoluted laws governing abortion in the year before Roe v. Wade. To get all the details as right as I could, I read state statues, spoke with women who had had abortions in that period, and interviewed editors of the original Our Bodies, Our Selves, the manifesto of early ’70s sexuality. And I spent many afternoons combing through the Hippies Collection at the San Francisco Public Library Archive—boxes of hand-written scrapbooks and peace poems and copies of the Haight Ashbury Free Press

Maybe all this makes Love & Haight sound super serious. It is serious in that the issues I write about are real and important, then and now. But the book is also funny, I hope, with its cast of trippy characters and ‘happenings’, such as a Nude Relay. And there’s a lot of love in Love & Haight too, especially between Chloe and the boy she wishes she’d waited for."

"Daring, insightful, romantic, and wonderfully honest. Carlton has created characters that feel so real, you'll be thinking about them long after you finish this fascinating book."
   —Candace Bushnell, author The Carrie Diaries

"Caught between 'An Old-Fashioned Love Song' and 'Stairway to Heaven,' Chloe's trying to figure out her own morality in the midst of Haight-Ashbury, ground zero for trippy hippies in 1971. Carlton's novel is lyrical, honest and moving."
   —Ellen Wittlinger
"What a gorgeous book. It turns out your heart isn't all you can lose in San Francisco. Brilliantly, Carlton captures the heady pace and jubilation of an era and the heartache of a girl who must pay the consequences for letting it all hang out. Ah, but there isn't an ounce of moralizing here. Carlton's writing is so smart and funny and vivid and...well, I give it a 9.0 on the Richter Scale of Fabulosity!"
   —Tim Wynne-Jones, author of Blink & Caution

SUSAN CARLTON says "one of the best parts of writing Love & Haight was cueing up old albums on the turntable. This playlist is heavy on the San Francisco sound—bands that came of age along with drugs and love and peace and happenings. It's the music of the Grateful Dead but lots more (I cheated with Tom Waits—his album came out a year later—but he's too awesome to leave off). Here's my dream line up. (PLAYLIST) These are songs to write to, dance to, cook to, make out to."  

Order your reviewer's copy now.


bridlington accommodation said...

There are a lot of things you need to plan well in advance to make the picnic memorable and fun filled. There are a few items that you need to carry along with you so that you become self sufficient and meet all your requirements for the trip.

janette said...

I tried to order a reviewers copy of this book. I got an email response that said "50th anniversary A Wrinkle in Time" was all out.
I thought that was a bit strange.
Hoping my request still went through.

loonyhiker said...

It is definitely a YA book. I'm not sure the subject matter would be appropriate in a school library but I think it would be okay in a public library. It seems as if drugs and abortions are a main focus in the book and it would come up as a topic of discussion (and the parents of our students are just not ready for that to happen in a school setting). I grew up during this time and drugs and abortion was not the only thing about 60s that was memorable but this book will make young people think that is all there was to that era.

I would give this book a 3 out of 5

dmuldawer said...

This is definitely a book for high school or college. The first page refers to sex and references to free love and drugs are common.

Even though the idea of getting an abortion before Roe vs. Wade became law was interesting, the protagonist hardly seems aware of the politics. She is just interested in her own struggle.

This book could easily be used as a starting point for a discussion about abortion. All the characters have different views, but none of them are expressed in depth. Also, Chloe doesn't seem to have any emotional ties to the boy who got her pregnant. Furthermore, the Catholic brother of her best friend doesn't seem to mind that she had an abortion, even though M.J. (best friend) is troubled by the decision.

There is some interesting history in here and a feeling of the late 60's/early 70s era. Still, the characters are one-dimensional and serious issues are treated lightly.

As I said before, this could be a good opening for a discussion about abortion but I was not overly impressed with the book as literature. My copy will be going as a donation to the public library, where hopefully it will be read and enjoyed by others.

Picnic Basket Rating: 2

EShay said...

I have deep concerns about this book. It is short which is appealing to many students; however, it deals with serious issues. I am not a fan of banning books, but I would definitely want a discussion to go along with this book.
With that said, I can't see a class reading the book, so I am not sure I would be thrilled seeing most young people read the book. This is a book meant for mature readers. While the ending was decent, it still does not redeem the book.
The book's main focus is abortion and there are heavy drug situations sprinkled throughout. I also feel it makes the early 70s seem like people were all about breaking laws and flying under the radar.
I did find the references to the era interesting as I don't remember that time period. However, I can't imagine everyone was like the characters in the book.
I keep fluctuating on my rating, so I give the book a 2.5

Anonymous said...

Interesting storyline, but very difficult to use in a school setting. I think the language and the focus on sex and drugs make this book better suited for high school/college years. It does offer some great points for discussion, abortion obviously, but also friendship. I think it is interesting to consider MJ's point of view regarding Chloe's choice. Also Kiki's point of view as well. The fact that you can support a friend without agreeing with the friend's choice is interesting to explore especially when considering something as serious as abortion. Overall, not my kind of book and not something I'd recommend for my school library, but in the right book club it offers points for discussion.

3 out of 5

linda said...

I had a difficult time reading this book, not specifically regarding the content, but wondering as I read it, if students could relate to the story because of the time period. I had no problem understanding the time period, because it was the time that I grew up in as a young adult. However, I think that many of the historical references might not make sense to the students if they don't understand the culture of the time period. It is not a book that can be used alone, given for independent reading. It does seem to oversimplify the 60s time period and leaves out the important issues that occurred at that time and how they impact life now. I’d have to give it 3 out of 5(the highest I could give to it)

cyezak said...

This is an interesting story. I can relate to the story/time period/intent but I'm not sure how to address it in the classroom. I know parents would be upset to have it used as part of the curriculum, but I do not see a problem of students reading it independently. Chloe has some tough choices to make. Most of my high school students have seen Teen Moms on tv, so they can relate to what Chloe is going through. This would be a good book group read because it is interesting and keeps your interest. But it should be used with consideration and warning so that parents have some say in what they want their students to know about this topic.

I give this book a 4.

Catherine Yezak, Teacher, Marquette Area Public Schools, Marquette, Michigan

Jeanette Larson said...

I admit to having a hard time looking at this time period as historical fiction as I was just out of high school and leaving home in 1971. Yes, this is a book for older teens because of the subject matter--sex, drugs, abortion--but it should also be about more than a girl going to San Francisco and getting an abortion. I never felt that I got to know Chloe. Her aunt and most of the characters seemed plastic. I didn't get any sense for how Chloe got herself into the mess she is in, whether she gave any thought to the decision she was making. Actually MJ had more of the concerns, questions, and fears that Chloe should have been dealing with. It is the kind of story I probably would have read at 17 and maybe is a 70s version of Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones -- instead of getting married the girl gets an abortion. A quick read with some "food for thought," especially given the current movement to revoke Roe v. Wade that gives teens a taste of the times.

Anonymous said...

The subject matter in this book may not be appropriate for the upper grades in most public HS, but an alternative or charter high school may find this book a thought-provoking read and would be appropriate for book group discussions or as a spring off point for deeper debate. The era the story was set in was interesting but the characters were not deeply developed and I did not feel invested in them as a reader.
I rate this a 3 out of 5 for select audiences.
Laura Backman
Hathaway School