Boffo comedy and compassionate attention to everyday familial and sexual boondoggles are almost perfectly blended in this zesty first novel from button-pushing Boudinot (stories: The Littlest Hitler, 2006).
It begins with adolescent Cedar Rivers getting suspended for bringing in a container of his semen for a school science project. His father, an overstressed lawyer, is suitably POed, but Cedar’s mom, a medical photographer who’s seen us all at our inner worst, takes it in stride. His classmates are mostly grossed out, except for incipient hot chick Kat, who’s so taken with the pure product of Cedar’s gonads that she stores it “in a secret compartment beneath her bracelets and necklaces,” and designates him her de facto boyfriend. Some 20 years and many romantic crises later, he is an unmarried medical-company rep, and she a published writer of fiction whose just-completed memoir implicates Cedar in her personal history so vividly that Kat requires his permission to publish it. Cross-cutting deftly between their shared and separate adolescences and early adulthoods, the author assembles an irresistible R-rated comedy that features such attention-getting supporting players as the phlegmatically goofy host family that shelters Cedar when his parents combust, Kat’s seductively trampy mother Veronica, the latter’s loose-cannon ex Jerry and his designated replacement George, a weird combination of prude and provocateur. Boudinot displays crack comic timing, gets off some wonderfully indecent one-liners and constructs one credibly replete face-off scene after another; even a throwaway conversation between the chastened Cedar and a worldly-wise psychiatric counselor bristles with ironic wit. The central plot issue, hinted at by the perfect title, is handled with consummate energy and tact. Alas, all these wonders are seriously compromised by an unconvincingly melodramatic climax. Too bad, because for most of the way this kick-ass yarn threatens to become the most inviting comedy of wasted youth since Tom Perrotta’s The Wishbones (1997).
Falters slightly just when it ought to soar, but keep your eye on Boudinot: He’s on his way up.