A sad sack has just secured his first date—to the senior prom, no less—when she’s kidnapped by extraterrestrials.
Bennett considers himself a “worthless, ramen-eating, day-sleeping, I-think-I-wore-these-boxers-yesterday-but-I’m-not-even-quite-sure pile of dirt right now.” He’s been wait-listed at Princeton, and for reasons he can’t quite explain, he didn’t apply anywhere else. Enter neighbor Sophie: Despite popularity and hotness, she needs a prom date. Sophie, who exists purely to be The Girl for Bennett, is half Manic Pixie Dream Girl—she wears vintage dresses, rides a motorcycle and does mud runs—and half damsel in distress. Hitching a ride with a boozy, past-their-prime extraterrestrial band in order to rescue Sophie from the outer-space reality television show that captured her, Bennett bops around McCoy’s kooky galaxy, solves his songwriting block and makes it home in time for prom—with Sophie in hand. Bennett’s ironically detached first-person voice is very funny but sometimes offhandedly callous (taking potshots at “a scoliosis-riddled troll” just feels cruel). His college prospects (or lack thereof) loom amusingly large, as does prom, undiminished by views of “all of creation,” which looks “a bit like a computer screen saver from the early nineties.” In McCoy’s universe, Earth is oblivious about extraterrestrials, but outer space offers Coca-Cola, pork fried rice and plenty of television. An E.T.–ex machina conclusion suits the story well.
Not particularly meaningful but entertaining nonetheless. (Science fiction. 13-16)