When I said “and I am looking forward to whatever else this author will come up with” about Tom Leveen a few weeks ago, I was not kidding. This time I review his new, soon to be published book manicpixiedreamgirl. I had an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC). So your milage with the actual published book might vary.
The first four words in the book are: “It’s about a girl.” They are spoken by the main character, Tyler Darcy. Of course this book is mostly not about a girl, but about a boy; this boy, Ty and how he sees the world and the people in it. The story takes place both in the course of a day and through flashbacks during the last three years of Tyler’s yet young life. He is seventeen and a high school senior. The flashbacks take him and us back to his first moments as a high school freshman and that fateful day he stood in line behind a particular girl in the cafeteria and totally fell for her.
The girl in question, Rebecca Webb, is rather quiet and aloof. She has some rebellious identifiers like short hair and a tattoo, but otherwise exists in a bubble of silence. For Tyler, she is the girl of his dreams and because of that, he is too shy to approach her for a very long time in reality.
While Tyler is dreaming about Becky, he meets a girl in his honors English class who likes and pursues him. Soon Tyler and Sydney are boyfriend and girlfriend. Not so much because Tyler chooses Sydney over Becky, but because he let’s the relationship with Sydney happen. It is convenient. It feels good. It doesn’t take much effort.
Being with Sydney curiously opens up an opportunity for Tyler to get closer to Becky and over time he finds out what makes Becky tick and why she is so aloof. Another thing Tyler learns is what kind of person he is and that he is far from finished when it comes to the subject of growing up.
Tom Leveen has explored the trope of the manic pixie dream girl in this book. The trope being that a broody young man gets inspired by a manic pixie dream girl to overcome his current issues and to enjoy life. She is quirky. She is a facilitator. She is only there for his development.
Only that in this story the girl does not go along with the trope. The story is all about perception. Tyler wants Becky to be a certain way. His dream Becky is very well defined. He even wrote stories about her. When real Becky does things that don’t agree with Tyler’s dream image of her, he gets angry. He has such a hard time reconciling his wishful image of her with the real girl, that he systematically blocks out information that everyone else in the school seems to have.
Then there is his long suffering girlfriend Sydney, who he takes for granted and neglects on a regular basis. She is smart, nice, forgiving, concerned and good looking. She trusts him and is more reasonable than ninety-eight percent of the population would be. The only problem is, that Tyler doesn’t love her at all.
As I read the book, I actually did have some problems with her character. I could understand what motivations Tyler had and as time went on, also Becky’s. I could not figure out (Saint) Sydney. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that there is a reason for this. We only see Sydney through Tyler’s eyes. The whole book is from his point of view. And Tyler never really sees Sydney for what she is. So in essence, when it comes to really understanding a person and seeing her for what she is, as opposed to what little mind drawer she fits in, Tyler is making the same mistake twice.
I really like this book. It is a fast read and the main characters are flawed and colorful enough to root for them. Some of the supporting characters had me laughing my behind off. And although the book explores the topic of imagining people complexly, to borrow a phrase from John Green, it never comes across as lecturing or condescending. It will stay with you, though and make you think. And I don’t think that is a bad thing.
So, definitely give it a read, once it comes out.