A system for avoiding heartbreak falls apart in an unexpectedly insightful tale of friendship and loyalty.
Aubrey’s friends spend their weekends making out with boys at parties, drinking Slurpees mixed with vodka, and hurling insults at their ex-friend, Chiffon. Now that Aubrey has gotten into her dream school and eased off her work schedule, she can join them. Just before the start of their junior year, Shelby, the de facto group leader, developed the titular theories. High school boys, according to the theories, are incapable of commitment, so girls should enjoy sex and never expect anything afterward. But when good-looking outsider Nathan Diggs shows up in Aubrey’s drama class, and Nathan and Aubrey quickly become inseparable, Aubrey is tempted to forget that she’s become “evolved.” What looks poised to be a romantic comedy (girl meets boy; theories fail; love triumphs) turns into something far more complex and bittersweet. Each character’s life is carefully imagined, from Chiffon, the target of the girls’ ridicule, to Shelby herself, whose carefree armor slowly begins to crack. The bullying is never forgiven. The lovers, once estranged, are never entirely reunited. The theories are indeed debunked, but what is left in their place is a kind of vulnerability and regret that can’t be summed up in a romantic platitude.
Careful, subtle and aching. (Fiction. 14-18)