THE MISADVENTURES OF JUSTIN HEARNFELD by Dan Elish

THE MISADVENTURES OF JUSTIN HEARNFELD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Good-bye, Mr. Chips meets Portnoy’s Complaint meets The 40-Year-Old Virgin in contemporary Manhattan.

When short, unathletic Justin Hearnfeld graduates from the Clarke School for Boys, he vows never to enter its doors again. After college, however, he ends up back at Clarke teaching English. Thanks to his ability to think on his feet (a byproduct of his experience with a comedy improv troupe), he makes it through the new-teacher challenge unscathed, despite an incident with a flaming piglet. Justin could enjoy life if it weren’t for one thing—he’s a virgin. His “smug, entitled and irritatingly talented” students have more experience than he does, if their smutty essays are any indication. Determined to do “it,” Justin seeks the affections of three women: his everything-but college girlfriend Abigail; his beautiful, flirtatious colleague Beverly; and smart, funny Sadie, who like Justin was “raised on Zabar’s and trips to the Met.” His efforts to bed them are at various times frustrated by a chipmunk, his boyhood shrink and a blazing sleeping bag, along with more typical obstacles such as pre-existing boyfriends. Elish (Nine Wives, 2005, etc.) steers clear of sketching Justin as a nebbish, which would be easy to do. Rather, he portrays him as a talented if somewhat nerdy young man who is struggling on his journey to manhood. The milestones along his path are puerile but bizarre enough to be funny. By the end, Justin grows up enough to know that manhood is more than doing the deed—and he’s better able to recognize true love when he sees it.

A light, comic take on a rite of passage.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-312-33945-6
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2008