A divorced ne’er-do-well seeks to reinvigorate his stagnant life by digging up the past in Willow’s debut novel.
Despite its risqué title, this tale about a man trying to rekindle an old high school flame is amiable and entertaining. It follows the adventures of Steve Collins, a downtrodden 30-something Pittsburgh insurance company human-resources director haunted by dreams of a better life. After a year and a half of homeownership, he swiftly backed out of his unfulfilling life and love by getting a divorce. Now, as a newly single fellow, he trolls Internet dating sites for female companionship, which results in pages of humorous attempts to connect with the opposite sex: Suzie looks “exactly like her photo, age-progressed twenty years”; Kathy seems nice but is secretly attached; and Paula has nine rescue-shelter cats. Then Jennifer Mello, a beautiful, out-of-his-league brunette he’d let slip away back in high school, reappears at his workplace looking for a job. Twenty years have improved Jennifer’s attractiveness along with her career acumen, the love-struck Steve observes. Although she initially declines his attentions, he insinuates himself into her life—even as his pessimistic friends Paulie and Chris and his amiable, unfaithful ex-wife, Sara, advise against living in the past. A highly coincidental chance meeting brings Steve and Jennifer face to face again, and they date until former classmate Bobby (the “cockblocker” of the title), who also feels puppy love for Jennifer, threatens to sabotage Steve’s romantic strategy. Willow concludes his short tale with a confusing one-page epilogue that switches the narrative’s point of view. This novel is stunted by its brevity and lack of plot development, and it only minimally explores the idea that “no one ever recovers from high school.” However, this deceptively slim, effective story about reinvigorating a past love will surely entertain fans of romance and other readers looking for an uncomplicated, breezy, and fun beach distraction. It has a winning protagonist whose need for love and acceptance will likely resonate with every reader.
A brisk, spirited novella about a man’s quest for true love, from a hip author with potential.