In Aloi’s debut novel, a young man struggles to decide whether to stay with his girlfriend or try to sleep with many other girls.
Vincent Wing—call him “Wing,” everybody else does—is a typical misogynistic teen, obsessed with sex but terrified of commitment with his girlfriend Clara. The problem is that he’s also (maybe) in love with the enchanting Maggie. She has certain physical features that draw our randy hero, although, to be fair, she’s hardly the only girl Wing’s age whose prominent features elicit his full-tilt, testosterone-fueled lust spiral. Such juvenile reduction of women and girls to sex objects is a major bonding point for Wing and his friends, who have names such as Hot Dog, Figs, Chink, the Shit, Monkey, the Bull and Nails. In fact, Aloi devotes much of the novel to describing their dehumanizing dialogue in what can best be described as a boys-will-be-boys tone, which does little to generate compassion for the narrator or much interest in his plight. The plot, such as it is, revolves around a much-anticipated senior trip to Porto Seguro, Brazil. While there, Wing has the opportunity to seduce copious women, but, of course, his heart belongs to Clara. Will they or won’t they get back together? The minor dramas of adolescent sexual politics may make for an intriguing lived experience, but it takes a skilled hand, often lacking here, to pull it off on the page. The real drama is whether or not the painfully self-aware Wing will ever realize that sexist vernacular isn’t the magic key to a woman’s heart (or body). Comedy can do much to illuminate the human condition, but Wing’s and his friends’ jokes never move beyond slut-shaming and gay-baiting to get at deeper truth, which is unfortunate. Aloi’s prose has the potential to be quite strong, and at its best, it comes through crisply: “She went back clumsily to talking to the rugger, though he looked like he might as well have been a pair of headphones.” In the final estimation, however, this story of Wing and his friends seems as anachronistic as its pop-culture references.
A quasi-humorous novel and field guide for broken-hearted adolescents.