My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: Very interesting story about an awkward teen growing up in the 70s who falls in love with a girl he happens to get her number and goes through a number of unfortunate mishaps along the way. I think the mystery man/stalker thing was weird, but Vinny and Patsy are characters I liked for the most part, and I thought the story had some interesting humor in spurts. I wouldn’t necessarily take this story for all the comparisons it has in its blurb, but it is a decent read of its own character.
I really didn’t know what I was going into when I picked up Audrey Couloumbis’s “Not Exactly a Love Story”. Sure, I like periodic reflections, and the fact that this story takes place in the 70s was a factor I don’t usually come across in YA literature. I did find it sadly lacking in terms of setting the period (because there aren’t really any cue to give you a sense of familiarity with the time), but I honestly liked the voices of the characters in this.
Vinny is a 15-year-old boy who can’t seem to catch a break if his life depended on it, at least in the beginning of the story. His parents are divorcing, he breaks out with a really bad case of acne, his mother seems to jump into another relationship at the drop of a hat (let alone with his teacher), and they all move to a different place before Vinny can really make sense of things. Yet a bright spot in Vinny’s life is when he becomes invested in a girl named Patsy. He happens to get her number, tries to work up his mettle to ask her out, gets marked as a “stalker” because of being incredibly nervous the first several times he tries to call her, and eventually the two end up having phone conversations at midnight each night. Patsy has no idea who Vinny is (because he doesn’t tell her his name, only that his name is Italian, and that prompts Patsy to try to play guessing games with his name each time they start a conversation).
I’ll admit I was weirded out about the stalker premise of this particular tale – mainly because I’ve seen this troupe begin and end very badly in YA works. Vinny manages to be a likable guy though, very socially awkward and just having a lot of bad deals handed to him in parts of the story. I did like him and I felt for him in his awkward moments. His interactions with Patsy are funny and sweet in spurts. I don’t know how I felt about some parts of the story in the way that they were handled, though. Some parts I think really did get under my skin such as Patsy’s relationship with Biff (who doesn’t treat her all that well, and Vinny points this out), and the attributional “stalker” elements that were through the work (because considering the implications and interactions in that, I just didn’t find them funny). In the collective measure of things though, I found it easy to go along with Vinny and Patsy’s experiences, and the way they eventually come together was a nice touch.
It’s not so much a deeply invested love story as it is a light tale of two different kids who find a point to bond in some interesting ways. I liked reading it, particularly since I ended up reading this twice – the ARC galley of it as well as the audiobook version – which featured a nice reading by Maxwell Glick.
Overall score: 3/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Random House BFYR.