Not Exactly a Love Story by Audrey Couloumbis
Publication Date: December 11, 2012
Publisher: Random House
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: moving, divorce, secret admirers, 70s
Format read: ARC from NetGalley (Thanks!)
Summary: Things aren’t looking so great for Vinnie when his parents announce their divorce, his mom remarries quickly, and he is suddenly moving from Queens to Long Island. New school, new house, and new girl next door… oh wait, maybe this won’t be as bad as he thinks.
Oh man. Oh man. Or should I say: oh boy. Oh boy. Because I have been spoiled with some great titles with refreshing male voices this year. (See: Lexapros and Cons, Curveball, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children.)
Vinnie is just your normal guy wearing leather pants on his first day of school, in the late 70s. (For the record: not the best fashion choice.) He’s kind of the guy that girls realize they want after they date the bad ones that trample all over their hearts. You know the one I mean. He’s funny, he’s sweet, and he likes to take care of fish in aquariums.
Don’t you love him already?
Couloumbis does a great job of shaping a story around a typical family. Parents who decide to separate. No big blow out fight, just a decision they come to. Each of them off and starting their own separate lives and Vinnie is just sort of in the middle, watching all of this happen. Vinnie’s observations during this time are the most interesting. He’s very perceptive, and he knows exactly where his boundaries are too.
Then in sort of this whirlwind You’ve Got Mail-like situation, Vinnie starts calling his gorgeous and popular next door neighbor, Patsy, every night at midnight. She has no idea who he is, and he keeps his identity a secret because he’s pretty sure she would never go for him. It sounds pretty creeptastic, doesn’t it? I mean, the reader knows that Vinnie means well (even if he comically messes this up time after time) but for some reason Patsy is hooked and keeps picking up the phone. She does, though, know when it’s time to hang up.
The great thing about this phone relationship is that I’m pretty sure Vinnie and Patsy wouldn’t have gotten to know each other quite as well if they just met in gym class or something. There’s something about that mysteriousness and, in Vinnie’s case, the darkness, that gives both of them courage.
It was giddily romantic, even when the two would bicker and shoot straight with one another. I couldn’t wait to know how they would eventually collide in real life. If the possibility of their friendship surviving the real world even existed.
(While the 70s backdrop is delightfully subtle with a few references to music and fashion, I wondered if it also served a purpose. I don’t believe there would have been the same charge with an online relationship.)
The author does tackle some heavy subjects, but manages to maintain a certain lightness. There’s such a calculated balance between Vinnie’s situation at home (new stepfather; embracing his inner athlete; juggling his time with both parents) and the version of himself that talks to Patsy late into the night. And the author does a great job of highlighting each of those intertwining plotlines as they come to a fulfilling end.
In a world full of books about revenge, car accidents, and post-apocalyptic challenges, it feels so right (and so refreshing!) to settle down with a genuine book about real people dealing with every day problems, bumbling around to find their own happiness.
Did I mention there was dancing?