Fate leads to love in this realistic novel of a young woman’s adventures dating online.
Twenty-five-year-old Chloe Thompson, a first-grade teacher in Milwaukee, decides to look for love on the Internet. It’s 2003, and her newly engaged co-worker met her fiance online, so how bad can it be? If Chloe’s first date is a litmus test of the online dating pool, the answer is painfully bad. She plans to meet Scott at an Applebee’s, only to have him show up late, order chicken fingers like a child and reveal that the handsome photo of him on his profile was his senior portrait. When her ex-boyfriend Cliff calls her, she can’t resist letting him come over. She continues clicking on men’s profiles, answering icebreakers, calling strangers: There’s a firefighter who wants phone sex, an enthusiastic Packers fan, and a racist student-teacher who says he knew there was something “chinky” about her. Meanwhile, Chloe’s friends and family—from her brisk Taiwanese mother to her upstanding friend Shelly and wild Jess—offer a mix of skepticism and encouragement. Chloe is charmed when she meets Drew, a nerdy guy who sends her photos of himself in the mail to prove that his scanner is truly broken. He cooks her dinner; he’s good at Scrabble; then he reveals that he kind of has a girlfriend. The news confuses Chloe, who is struggling to avoid Cliff’s troubling advances. When Drew meets Chloe’s friends, the mix of alcohol and drama is unfitting, and Chloe’s friends convince her Drew isn’t as normal as he may seem. She’s able to move on, though, via a stream of other guys met online. On a date with Frank, Chloe bumps into her engaged co-worker, who has startling news about her now ex-fiance. Cliff’s behavior continues to frighten Chloe, leading to a final confrontation that makes everything clear for both of them. Just when Chloe thinks she’s had enough of personal ads and screen names, the advice of a psychic leads her to what could be her best match yet. Anyone who’s been on a first date will find something to sympathize with in the litany of Chloe’s experiences, from the funny to the hopeful. It’s the pain of letting go of Cliff, and all that she learns in watching her friends and family go through their own trials, that makes Chloe truly relatable. The book is thankfully not bogged down by pages of pining for the perfect soul mate. It can, however, be a bit dull reading scene after scene of Chloe and her young friends drinking to excess (several chapters open on a hung-over Chloe in her bed). The novel’s dedication page features a photo of the author’s husband—whom she met online, proving to readers that online dating can indeed lead to happily ever after.
Repetitive as Chloe’s romantic experiences are, they still manage to entertain.