Complete with pie charts, drawings and doodles, the author/main character of We Should Hang Out Sometime conducts a thorough review of his past relationships to figure out why he’s never had a ‘real girlfriend’. He chronicles his escapades in homeschooling, youth group, golfing disasters, childhood cancer and the rules of having an amputated leg. (You know I’m particularly interested in books with main characters with disabilities, so I really wanted to love this book, but … alas.) From his first, less than 24-hours-long girlfriend in middle school through the out of his league girl in high school, the enigma, arty, yoga girl; the BFF he wants to change into his FWB, and every manic pixie dream girl he ever looked at for more than five seconds, Josh tries to dissect every single “relationship” he’s ever had with a girl/woman.
The thing is instead of siding with, and connecting with the main character, I instead found myself relating to those poor girls in his stories. They didn’t reject him; they weren’t hideous, horrible girls who played with and broke his heart – one girl literally wrote him a single note: ONE NOTE, that he then crafted into some relationship in his mind, and that kind of thinking, even in fictional worlds, is too terrifyingly real (and has too many horrifying real world implications), for me to find the humor in them. (I know: it makes me the no-fun-she-girl-man-hater-feminazi of the group, but drawing a picture of the “friendzone” with a skull and crossbones in it, is just not something I can find it in me to laugh about anymore; particularly in YA books, because teenagers/kids are reading these, and that matters.) There’s another point in the book, where, at a frat party, he and a girl are dancing. Just, a girl he kinda knows from class, he sees her, they start dancing; No Big Deal. He puts his hands on her, and she “immediately snapped back, pushing my hands away like she was ripping off a pair of pants she had just discovered to be infested with spiders. “Sorry,” she said, slowing down a little as if she was worried she had overreacted. “I just don’t want to dance like that.”” Now, a normal person reacts to that by saying “Cool” and continuing to dance, maybe feeling a little rebuffed or embarassed, but… no big deal. But this guy? This guy is the king of overreacting – “The way she had instantly shoved away my hands, as if they too grotesque to allow near her body, as if they were infected with some contagious disease, was more personal and painful than the worst-case scenario I could have imagined. I was so shocked that for a moment, I dropped my mask of confidence; the hurt was written on my face. All that time I had wasted building up my nerves. That entire internal-monologue pep talk had been for nothing.”
Ok, dude: I mean: seriously? The girl just took his hands off of her while they were dancing. Which he did without any input from her. So her saying ‘no I don’t want to dance that way’ is PERFECTLY DAMN ACCEPTABLE. I get that being rejected hurts, but I swear to god- how fragile does your ego have to be to not get that a woman has the right to tell you to keep your hands off of her: in any setting, including the dance floor. (Honestly I was doing so good till now with the feminist ranting… sigh. ) I mean; this is totally unfair to that girl. I get it’s his perspective, but I’m halfway through the book, at this point, and his perspective is starting to read entitled male to me so clearly that I have had to stop reading. (Also, there’s some interplay here between disability and his reactions – his need to fit in, to be seen as “normal” is obsessive, which isn’t unusual with people (especially kids) with disabilities, and I wanted to talk more about that, but instead I just got really pissed off about how immature Josh was being – because he’s in college at this point – that I couldn’t give it as much in depth discussion as it deserved.)
So here’s the thing: The book was good, it was witty and enjoyable, and smart. But it was also about a guy dissecting his past interactions with girls and trying to figure out why he’s not good enough to date. And even in his moments of supposed “reflection”, Josh is still bumbling around cluelessly. Because he can look at his interactions with these girls and see his awkwardness and his missteps, but he does not bring that forward into his interactions with these same girls-as-women, when he meets up with them in the present, instead just expecting them to hand him his answers on a silver platter. Leaving them to do all the emotional work and heavy lifting in laying open what went wrong in their ‘relationships’. And – in the end! – he comes to the correct conclusion that it was not the girls, all along, but his own sorry self and his own issues that were getting in the way. BUT, just because he recognizes he was an egotistical entitled insecure jerk, can I then cut him some slack?
I’m really not sure, to be honest with you.
I was so conflicted about this one, because it was well written, BUT, the character (who seems to be based on the author) mostly sucks 9/10ths of the way through the book, and it’s written with a YA audience in mind, so sucky characters get less leeway from me there, so … I don’t know what to tell you. Guys: I may be too upset about the world to enjoy even slightly unfeminist stories right now, I don’t know. For what it’s worth – I’d read something else by the author, give him another shot. But I wouldn’t read this again. There: A Conclusion at last.