The teen, coming-of-age archetype redivivus: fake IDs, having trysts when parents are out of town, desperately striving to shed virginity.
At age 36, Phil Corcoran reviews his teenage life and loves. The story takes place in Milwaukee. Phil is torn between two (sometimes among three, occasionally four) loves of his life, but he’s primarily attracted by two antipodes: a cyberpunk bad girl, Cheryl, and a sweet-tempered, level-headed good girl, Stefanie. While at age 13 Phil had been preoccupied with making six-minute stop-action films like Were-Bear of Oshkosh, at 16 he decides to put away childish things and just get it on. Most the novel tracks Phil’s Summer of Love chasing Stefanie and, when Stefanie lights out for a month at acting camp in the Big Apple, taking up with Cheryl. The results are predictable: horniness, making out, guilt, more horniness, more making out…. Phil has all the loopy self-consciousness of a prototypical teenager. Catching a view of himself reflected in a restaurant window, he thinks he looks “hip yet apprehensive—Abbie Hoffman during a raid,” and as he weighs the potential of several hypothetical girlfriends, he worries about being “too young…too square…too white.” In the torment and uncertainty of teenage passion, he eventually makes his way to New York City to visit Stefanie, and he finds there an uncomfortable but rather predictable truth.
There’s a certain sweetness to McComas’s lightweight story, as perhaps there must inevitably be when the events of callow youth are viewed through a patina of nostalgia.