It’s one romantic rejection after another in this mid-1990s, suburban coming-of-age novel.
Nova Porter isn’t an average teenage girl. She prefers Mötley Crüe to New Kids on the Block, and at the mall, she’d rather make prank phone calls than shop. Yet as she enters junior high school, her desire for a boyfriend prompts her to make the first of many earnest attempts to ask guys out. When it ends in verbal sparring, Nova proceeds to make up a fictional affair that lasts just one weekend. By the time she reaches high school, still unkissed and boyfriend-less, she meets Rick Sanders, the mullet-haired boy that’ll reject her advances for the next several years. Nova’s sidekick throughout this rejection is her younger brother, Orion, who plays the role of barb-slinging sibling and unwavering sounding board for all of Nova’s unrequited romances. Midway through, readers also learn that Orion is a talented dancer, and it’s through his dance studio that Nova meets Wendell, an older boy she courts with punkish friendship until he, too, declines her advances. She’ll continue bickering with and pining for Rick well through her first year of college, until she risks responding to a personal ad and unexpectedly finds the man she’s been looking for. Nova narrates the novel like a stand-up comic, heaping pop-culture metaphors and self-deprecation onto the story. Candid dialogue carries the bulk of the novel, which paces things well but misses opportunities to tell a more dynamic story. There’s a tendency to gloss over more interesting facts, like Orion’s talent as a dancer or Nova’s friend Sammi’s drug addiction, which, after a two-page mention midstory, is wrapped up happily in the novel’s epilogue. Instead, the story features Nova’s and Orion’s reliance on bullying to pump themselves up, whether their victim is Rick’s crazy mother or Wendell, who turns out to be homeless. While it’s refreshing to read a story of a girl who constantly doesn’t get the guy, her obsession with Rick—who ignores her, says mean things and doesn’t seem all that likable—could leave readers scratching their heads. Nova may have bad taste in men, but she should be able to convince readers why Rick is worthy of her loyal love.
An entertaining romp through one mid-’90s teenager’s world of heartbreak and hair dye, but the adventures don’t add up to a memorable story.