Vivid, light-hearted portrait of Americana
This book is not set in the Midwest, but being a Midwesterner I very much felt at home in it. The locations, situations, and personalities all rang very true, whisking be back to my own school days. Greg is a very self-aware writer in the best way possible. When he tackles a genre, he does so fully conscious of its tropes and cliches and uses those to play with the reader's expectations, faking us out, getting us to anticipate Development A or B only to be subverted by Development Q. And unlike certain romcoms on the market, these characters are the furthest thing from cardboard cutouts. They are messy, a little damaged, a little lost and afraid to feel too hopeful based on past disappointments. I'll read anything with strong characters--that is literally my only criterion--because strong characters, as Greg so deftly proves here, can take a plot about little league, small-town politics, petty grudges, the everyday minutiae of life, and make it more compelling than a spy thriller. Spy thrillers, while exciting, often leave me cold in the way of character attachment. From the earliest chapters I cared about Greg's cast with an almost familial intensity. They could've sat around collecting stamps and mowing their lawns and I would've been game for it. But instead Greg crafts a subtle, deeply nuanced, and representative tableau of small-town America that is so effortless to read it's easy to underestimate the amount of thought and creativity that went into it. Greg doesn't wear his mastery on his sleeve, and that's the mark of a true master.
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